This project was a team effort in improving accessibility from the get-go, resulting in an impressive new facility that can be enjoyed by the diverse student community.
The University of Auckland’s Recreation Centre has been a central feature of student life since 1978. Built when the University had just 10,000 students, the current facility no longer serves the population of more than 40,000 students and 5,000 staff.
Due to be completed in 2024, the new Recreation and Wellness Centre is set to be a vibrant multi-purpose facility designed to meet the needs of the diverse student community.
The University engaged Be. Lab early in the design process, with the project team specifying that the scope needs to be “more than just a review but inputting where the design could provide a broader solution to accessibility and universal access”.
Accessibility was at the forefront of the project from the beginning thanks to the proactive joint architectural team. The team consisted of New Zealand firm Warren and Mahoney and Canadian firm MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (MJMA). MJMA brought an international flavour to the project, with their ideas on accessibility inspired by their unique experience in Canada.
Be. Lab Master Coach, Colleen Jones, commented on how refreshing it was to work with an architectural team that views accessibility as a vital part of the project. “Typically, after an accessibility report is issued and present-back meeting is completed, there is little or no contact from the design team”, she explains. “On this project, the team were very proactive in seeking clarification on recommendations and asking for support and advice throughout all stages of design”.
Be. Lab’s consultation included an assessment of the preliminary design plans, creating an accessible route plan, and a matrix of best practice and universal design recommendations.They also facilitated a workshop with the University Disability ResourceServices team to gain stakeholder insights.
One particular challenge of the design was a social “hang out” feature, which consisted of bleacher-style step seating with stairs running along the side. This style is a popular architectural feature in new buildings but is not access-friendly. Be. Lab worked closely with the design team to improve accessibility by providing lift access to the bleacher seating. The team also took Be. Lab’s advice to straighten the stairs so the handrail on one side was perpendicular to the steps. Further to these improvements, Be. Lab’s other key recommendations included optimal design of the accessible sanitary facilities and incorporating an accessible emergency egress into the facility.
Thanks to the great team effort, the University of Auckland’s Recreation and Wellness Centre is on a path to becoming a state-of-the-art facility that the entire student community can enjoy.