Clever zinc-ing in New Jersey

Wednesday 11 Jul 2012

Glistening overhanging roof defines new tennis pavilion by Dattner Architects

The new Cordish Family Pavilion is a small but striking building occupying a pivotal location at the Lenz Tennis Center at Princeton University. The two-level facility transforms the eight varsity competition courts into a space with its own identity. Together with the adjacent bleachers, the pavilion creates a unified public space.

Occupying the pavilion's upper level, varsity coaches' offices and a glass-enclosed team meeting room have views of the courts. A masonry enclosure on the lower level burrows into a small hill and houses men's and women's locker rooms, mechanical systems and storage space. An external stair and ramp along with handicapped accessible paths are integrated into the landscape and connect the upper and lower levels.

The building's central feature is a large 3,700 sq ft covered observation deck that hovers over the ground. The deck becomes an extension of the main meeting room for the tennis players and their coaches, as well as an extension of the public bleachers for students and fans during events. It offers protection from the sun, and a vantage point to view the surrounding campus.

The dramatic overhanging zinc roof slopes back and folds down to become the rear wall, wrapping the wood interior. Supported by slender steel columns, the dynamic volume appears to hover over the tennis courts. Finely detailed and exposed gusset plates complement the warm tone of the wood with a cool industrial accent.

Steel cable railings line the pavilion, ramps, and stair to maintain open views and sense of lightness. The pavilion, which is as much an indoor as an outdoor space, was designed in the spirit of tennis. Its simple, precise lines reflect the geometries of the courts and the elegance of the game.

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