Archtober Building of the Day #19
Campbell Sports Center, Columbia University
Broadway & 218th Street
Steven Holl Architects
We rode the subway to the northern tip of Manhattan to tour Columbia University’s Campbell Sports Center, designed by Steven Holl Architects. The design, based on football play diagrams, incorporates “points on the ground, lines in space” that develop from the sloping site in this industrial section of Inwood. Olaf Schmidt, associate-in-charge of the project, led the Archtober tour through the building.
Approaching from the subway, visitors are faced with a series of angled planes and exterior stairways. Around the corner, thin stilts supporting deep cantilevers animate the structure and lead to the playing fields of the Baker Athletic Complex. The main entrance of the building is on the third floor, where a strengthening and conditioning room looks out onto the elevated tracks of the No. 1 subway line. This space, like the rest of the building, draws on the industrial feel of the surrounding neighborhood. The underside of the hollow-core planks that form the floors remain exposed, and structural supports, air ducts, and pipes are incorporated into the design. To balance the rawness of the space, the architects added bamboo throughout, including in the doors to coaches’ offices on the mezzanine overlooking the exercise room.
The use of bamboo adds a touch of warmth. In the Richard M. Ruzika Theater and Classroom on the fourth floor, bamboo walls are perforated in a pattern that mimics the treads of the interior staircases, and also provide acoustical benefits. This perforated pattern continues in a playful cutout on the fifth floor that exposes the structural system, and even in the trash and recycling containers used throughout the building. This attention to detail helps the space feel finished despite its raw edges.
Additional rooms, including a hospitality suite with clerestory windows, a conference room with a sloped ceiling painted Columbia blue, and a student lounge displaying goofy photos of the school mascot, are filled with natural light and provide a clear view of the playing fields below.
Julia Cohen is the Archtober Coordinator at the Center for Architecture.