San Antonio, Texas
12,900 SF Interior, 6,000 SF Exterior Airnasium

Sited in a historically important and culturally rich area of San Antonio, the Harvey E. Najim Family YMCA serves a community which is growing at a fast pace. Adjacent to the Mission Branch Library, completed in 2011, and Mission San Jose, one of the five Spanish Missions in use since 1782 and now designated with the other Missions a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the YMCA will participate in a cultural dialogue important to not only the local community but the city and beyond.

As a recreational and community center, the new YMCA includes spaces for cardio and weight training, aerobics, childcare, locker rooms, a center for teens, teaching kitchen, and an outdoor covered court we call an “Airnasium’.

One enters the building through an all-glass double height volume which we call the ‘beacon’. Lighting up at night, it embodies a densely patterned lightbox. From within, continuous views to the historical areas bordering the facility were essential so as to connect members to the site. Openness was another design goal. As an example, the Wellness Floor contains 14’ tall windows to the exterior and into the 2-story atrium. Bridges linking spaces across the atrium, metaphorically relating to the bridges across the San Antonio River, serve as another reminder. Particular focus was paid to link the building materials and site development to the Mission architecture and local culture to take advantage of the site’s natural beauty. Outdoor activity areas planted with native flora, such as a drumming circle and outdoor learning for reflection, surround the Harvey E. Najim Family YMCA. We believe the holistic approach taken on this project enables it to embody the functional requirements within a design language which elevates and honors the natural and cultural context.

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