When Grand Canyon University, a private, Christian college in Phoenix, decided to pursue an NCAA Division I classification, the institution needed to make significant upgrades to its athletic facilities. It turned to Architekton, a Tempe, Arizona-based firm with significant experience designing sustainable, regionally appropriate buildings across the desert Southwest, to create a striking, versatile recreation center.


Location Phoenix
Size 65,000 square feet
Completed 2010
Program Three multipurpose courts, a wrestling room, locker rooms, a student fitness area, and several classrooms


As part of Grand Canyon University’s athletic upgrades, Architekton and 360 Architecture designed a new recreation center that provides a fitness and social hub for the general student population as well as spaces reserved for the university’s elite athletes. “Fitness is an important part of lifestyle,” says Architekton principal John Kane. Athletic facilities improve student quality of life and can be powerful recruiting tools. Grand Canyon University’s new rec center includes three multipurpose courts, a wrestling room, locker rooms, a student fitness area, and several classrooms. A large Arcadia aluminum sliding-glass wall with insulated PPG Solarban 60 glass on the building’s northern façade overlooks the surrounding artificial turf and is operable so that in pleasant weather the building can be opened up.

Grand Canyon University Rec Center


The new rec center’s surrounding environment is an important element of the overarching green elements. Landscape designer Dan Lare lined the pedestrian mall that runs along the southern side of the building with six evergreen elms, providing shade to students and faculty. The building’s shed roof is sloped so that rainwater will be directed into a bioswale and water those trees. Additionally, the north lawn not only provides additional workout space, but also employs an artificial turf material that will survive in the shade—unlike natural turf—and hold up well with extensive use.

light & heat/

Central Arizona is fortunate to have ample natural light at its disposal, and Architekton worked to maximize this valuable resource in the rec center’s design. Using large windows and entire glass walls, Kane says the architects attempted to “fold the light in,” ensuring that the facility doesn’t require artificial light on clear days. But natural light also creates undesirable byproducts such as glare and heat, which drive up the need for cooling energy. The PPG Solarban 60 glass, featuring a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.38 (the closer that number is to zero, the better), already significantly reduces heat gain, but Architekton also designed a folded metal-clad wall on the eastern surface, which redirects entering light. Similarly, the steel siding also reflects light, and the provocative, rippling antelope sculpture that embellishes the eastern exterior’s vertical louvers not only represents the university’s mascot, but also shades the stairwell beneath.


Architects Architekton, 360 Architecture
Client Grand Canyon University
General Contractor UEB Builders

materials & waste/

Materials were selected for anticipated performance and reduced environmental impact. The main structure is a large-span pre-engineered system from Nucor Building Systems. This right-sized approach minimized waste while meeting the architects’ objectives for versatility, and the structural steel has between 80 and 90 percent recycled content. The building’s steel panels contained approximately 25 percent recycled content, and its durable siding will last for decades. Locally sourced concrete-masonry walls were used to break the exterior and primary interior walls. Architekton also reduced material waste by avoiding extra finishes and keeping the spaces raw, eliminating unnecessary supplies and showcasing building systems.


Versatility A sliding glass wall and open floor plan maximize square footage and limit waste
Glass Insulated PPG Solarban 60 glass reduces heat gain
Water A sloped roof diverts rainwater to a bioswale and plantings
Materials High recycled content, including 90% in structural steel



Architekton strives to streamline the spaces it designs. “We try to create as efficient an envelope as possible,” Kane says. The rec center was no different. Its design limits eastern and western exposures while maximizing surfaces to the north and shading those to the south. Beyond surface exposures, the Architekton team designed the building with a minimal number of interior walls—few of which are structurally necessary—so that Grand Canyon University can adapt the space as needed. “Trends are changing, and recreation is evolving,” Kane says. “The pre-fabricated structure yielded a really flexible volume.”

Flexibility within fitness areas provides a versatile structure alongside high-quality equipment.