Hot year-round temperatures and high relative humidity makes playing sports in sun-soaked Natal, Brazil a sweaty challenge. That's why local footballers are looking forward to Swiss-based architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron's open air Gymnasium project. A simple yet state-of-the-art facility that stands in harmony with the region's hot sun, gentle wind, and frequent rain, The Gymnasium project will serve the Mãe Luiza neighborhood and is part of a larger plan by Centro Sócio to unite and urbanize the growing community.
Before Herzog & de Meuron stepped in, Mãe Luiza’s local recreation center was a fully exposed concrete platform framed with columns and trusses. Plans for the new gymnasium expand upon this existing framework by stretching the geometry of the building upwards and outwards into a grand roof. Preserving the foundation will save on material and construction costs while ensuring that the design stays in tune with traditional architecture.
A slotted roof system evokes urban scale and elemental simplicity. Aluminum panels are arranged with covered gaps in between them. These gaps allow air to circulate freely, keeping athletes cool and saving on ventilation costs. Natural sunlight washes over the grounds, reducing lighting needs and energy requirements. The lattice design adds pattern and texture, but also works to keep the weather out.
The multi-sport athletic center will be wrapped in an undulating concrete wall that mimics oceanside dunes. Variety in the grain, color, and texture of the building materials will create subtle differences throughout the complex. A continuous, uninterrupted floor space is surrounded by seating on all sides. The building also incorporates freestanding rooms for informal use and promises to become a unique pubic space that will catalyze community activity.
The Gymnasium project will be completed in 2013, a year ahead of the FIFA World Cup, which is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of spectators to the region.