Forward Thinking Design Inspires Campus To Live Healthier Lifestyles

Student Recreation & Wellness Center


Fort Smith, Arkansas




58,000 square feet


Learning By Design Award

WER Architects, in association with HOK, designed a new Student Recreation & Wellness Center for the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. It is located on the southwest corner of the main campus “quad” green space. The building gathers students from a large covered outdoor area with built in benches into an open lobby with soft seating for waiting on other students or just hanging out between classes.

Faculty and student intramural offices are just off the lobby with views to the front door. Beyond the check-in desk is a 32 foot climbing and bouldering wall. Wrapping around the perimeter is a 3-lane running/walking track that takes the user by the various program pieces of building giving them glimpses into the other spaces, and outside the main envelope of the building on the north with views back to the campus quad.

On the ground floor there are two basketball courts, men’s and women’s locker rooms and weight training equipment along with a storage and rental area for outside recreation equipment. On the second level overlooking the weight training is a cardio loft with views back to the campus. On the west of the track are two studios, one with a wood floor for various cardio and dance programs and one outfitted as a spin studio. There are various areas for stretching and private exercise throughout the building.

Large graphics are used to enliven the student spaces and vary the level of transparency making the facility open and inviting to the student users. The RAWC, as UAFS students have labeled it, opened in August of 2016.

We wanted to introduce daylight into all areas, promoting a transparent quality – displaying activity from one space to the next not only within the building, but also outwards to the entire campus.

The layout of activities was designed so each area has visibility and connectivity – the running/walking track wraps around basketball and cardio, cardio peeks inside yoga studios, basketball players have views of weight training and the track, rock climbers are visible from multiple locations – all of this was intended for students to challenge each other on all levels of strength and endurance; promoting competition, building relationships and achieving new fitness goals.