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Nashua YMCA, NH



Constructed in the 1980s, the outdated facility serving the YMCA of Greater Nashua was in desperate need of a fresh and renewed image, as well as a location that would be more convenient to a geographic population shift in the region. Situated in the downtown area, the original structure was lacking a modern impression bearing disconnected spaces and a lack of transparency: both common traits of an outmoded building model. However, due to the sale of the YMCA to an adjacent hospital, proceeds were used as the base for the fundraising campaign that would drive the rebuilding and relocation of the city’s YMCA. The new location for the site was a natural fit, as it was placed on the city’s pre-existing recreation campus, already boasting community recreation fields, an ice rink, and adequate parking. Despite this ideal location, the land for the new site, which was provided by the city, was considered an undesirable parcel bearing a triangular shape. Despite this challenge, design and construction teams were able to reclaim this disturbed site and place primary components of the square building in a compact fashion to fit tightly on this uniquely-shaped site. In an effort to maximize space on this site, building components were organized under one, long shed. This efficient and economical design model not only located the primary venues under this extended roof form, further accentuated with repetitious material use, but proved volumetrically interesting, as well. Under this shed is formed the organizing ‘spine’ of the center. The two-story spine, as the organizational element for the new Y, afforded great views of the gymnasium, track, wellness center and family pool, all of which are located along it. Furthermore, it serves as the main circulation for the building and provides the primary source of natural light, which floods the interior. Additionally, the indoor track was strategically arranged around the gymnasium, fitness center, and family recreation pool, weaving throughout primary venues on the second level. Two other key elements truly define this facility as a community center: the fireplace and seating configurations. This fireplace is the centerpiece off of the café and pool-viewing gallery, providing a sense of warmth and kinship. Seating areas are also scattered throughout the space, and not just limited to placement in the lobby area, which ultimately enhances the connectivity of the space. This continuation of warmth was further carried-out in the design team’s material selection, as wood and a multitude of colors are woven throughout the facility, inside and outside. The exterior is a combination of alternative block coursing and colored metal panels that help give the appearance of a modern lodge, while the interior features stained concrete and wood decking, further expressing the warmth of this facility as the new community center for Nashua. As aforementioned, due to the availability of pre-existing parking on the recreation campus, no additional land or natural terrain was disturbed for parking as part of the building project, making this both a cost-efficient and sustainable development. Moreover, its location on the recreation campus allowed for a layering of multiple fitness community organizations, while leveraging city-funded infrastructure. On what was once an unorganized campus, the new YMCA of Greater Nashua now serves as an anchor and hub for city recreation and fitness. The addition of family locker rooms, a pool, and lounges that were once absent are now part of a new configuration that appeals to a contemporary market. Although nothing has changed in terms of the staff, program offerings, and the YMCA’s dedication to the community, the relocation and rebuilding of this facility led to a shocking increase in participation, yielding a fantastic outcome. Had this project not occurred, the YMCA of Greater Nashua would not have grown from 1,100 to 3,600 member units and would not be serving or impacting as many people as it is today in southern New Hampshire.

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