Riverfront revitalization and sustainable adaptive reuse combine at the Beloit College Powerhouse, a Studio Gang-designed student union focused on recreation and wellness. Completed last year, the award-winning Powerhouse project included a complete overhaul of the Blackhawk Generating Station — a collection of historic buildings constructed in the early 20th century along the Rock River — as well as the addition of a new field house. The design pays homage to the architectural heritage of the original structures while introducing modern amenities and energy-efficient technologies, including a radiant panel and slab system that harnesses energy from the Rock River. 

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A multi-building front with facades of brick, yellow paint and polycarbonate. A tall smokestack chimney sticks out from the roof. Behind the building is a river.

Located next to Beloit College’s campus near the city’s downtown area, the 120,000-square-foot Powerhouse houses a fitness center and recreational gym, an eight-lane competition swimming pool, an indoor turf field house and a suspended three-lane, 175-meter running track that loops through all parts of the building and takes in different landscape views. The student union also includes a coffee shop, student lounges, club rooms, a conference center, a 164-seat auditorium and a variety of spaces for conversation, collaboration and study. A new pedestrian bridge and publicly accessible elevator connect the hilltop college campus with the Powerhouse and the adjacent riverside paths and parks. 

An indoor turf field with a person standing on it.

To meet LEED Silver standards, the architects installed high-performance insulation into the historic portions of the building and added a radiant panel and slab system that draws energy from river water to power Powerhouse’s heating and cooling. An energy-efficient outdoor-air system ensures the highest air quality and comfort indoors. The new field house is wrapped in a polycarbonate facade that lets diffused light in while providing advanced thermal insulation. 

An indoor eight-lane swimming pool with a person getting ready to dive in to the water.

Related: University of Toronto Scarborough learning hub to welcome nature indoors

“The design retains architectural features and industrial equipment from the original structures while incorporating new sustainable practices and lively gathering spaces that encourage students to mix with each other and the larger Beloit community,” said the architects. 

+ Studio Gang

Images © Tom Harris