Arthur Ashe was far more than a celebrated tennis player; he was an activist, author, educator, and tireless champion for civil rights and racial equality. His world-class athletic abilities thrust him into an unsolicited social justice spotlight where he used his platform to shine a light on important issues and foment a revolution felt both on the tennis court and in the social fabric of the times and beyond.
Global Design & Architecture Design Awards 2022
First Award | Cultural (Concept)
Project Name: Arthur Ashe Community Center
Studio Name: HCDL
A native son of Richmond, Virginia, Ashe was memorialized in the construction of The Arthur Ashe Jr Athletics Center, a 72,000 sf single-story building located on the City of Richmond’s Arthur Ashe Blvd. Having opened to the public in 1982, the facility has been managed by the Richmond Public Schools system and features a central gymnasium with seating to accommodate 6,000 guests for athletic events and community gatherings.
Honoring Ashe’s athletic achievements and activism, the proposed renovation of the existing facility as part of the Diamond District redevelopment initiative aims to embody the spirit of unity, resilience, and openness while tearing down literal and metaphorical barriers and unifying communities. The new program calls for a resilient “refresh” (light to moderate renovation) of both the interior and exterior while maintaining the core of the existing walls and footprint. Therefore, we prioritized the offering of 1) community spaces, 2) natural daylighting, and 3) connections to the surrounding community. The facility now becomes both a vibrant place of athletic activity and a venue for learning and gathering.
The design gestures to openness by removing the opaque awning structures on the south and west sides and replacing them with a transparent building addition of full-height curtainwall glazing, allowing direct visuals into the facility from the neighboring community. Signaling unity, the renovation is crowned with a lightweight screened canopy and Y-shaped columns, providing shade and dynamic shadows. To offer natural daylighting into the gymnasium, we propose removing the upper walls and replacing them with translucent glazing panels, allowing diffused natural daylighting to permeate the volume. Community spaces are distributed throughout the renovation, with a community hub situated between the gymnasium and the curtainwall addition, offering two levels of flexible multi-purpose rooms.
Recognizing the site’s cultural significance, it was important to extend the reach of the building into the broader community. The overarching Diamond District development allows the integration of physical and digital environments through off-site “Mile Stone” totems distributed along the new “Arthur Ashe Milestone Trail”. The trail is planned to traverse the District and reach as far as Virginia Union University creating an immersive experience well beyond the boundaries of the facility. While the primary focus of these interspersed totems is to highlight the achievements and legacy of Arthur Ashe, they also these 3D digital media displays can be highly flexible and respond to unique events.
Much more than a symbolic nod in preserving the legacy of a legend, this renovation will help galvanize the community around the shared vision of a more equitable, accessible, and empowering future for all Richmonders.