The Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center is a three-building athletics complex comprising a gymnasium/fitness center, a field house, and a natatorium. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, in collaboration with Sasaki Associates, designed the master plan for the complex in 2002.
Completed in 2005, the first building contains the 17,000-square-foot Darby Gymnasium, a 7,400-square-foot auxiliary practice gym, an 8,200-square foot fitness center, and locker rooms. The Darby Gymnasium is a 1,250-seat performance gym with volleyball and basketball courts. Courts are below grade, which reduces the overall building height while giving spectators an expansive view of the entire space as they enter from the top of the stands. The fitness center is located on two levels with a mezzanine.
The second phase of the master plan, completed in 2010, includes the natatorium and field house. The 500-seat natatorium includes a 50-meter pool with two movable bulkheads, a multi-purpose room, a climbing wall and locker rooms. Adjacent to athletic fields and an outdoor track, the 400-seat field house contains a six-lane 200-meter track, racquetball and indoor tennis courts, classrooms, coaches’ offices, train and equipment rooms, and locker rooms. A loggia along the outside of the building provides covered spectator seating for football.
An uninterrupted open space from the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center to the football field visually and spatially connects the complex to the main campus. The Bear Recreation and Athletic Center continues the brick-and-glass materials palette Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects established with the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts and the Rosenfield Center. The distinguishing feature of the gymnasium and natatorium is the projecting metal canopies that run the length of the buildings, culminating in dramatic cantilevers at the main entrances.
Rated LEED Silver, the complex includes 130 geothermal wells to heat and cool the natatorium. The design also uses passive strategies to conserve energy and water. The canopies and sunshades control glare and heat gain, while below-grade locker rooms improve insulation and reduce stormwater management demands. In addition, a 35,000-gallon underground cistern collects rainwater to irrigate the football field.