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Carver Gym

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1936, Bebb and Gould; 1959–1961 addition, Fred Bassetti; 2015–2017 addition, Loschky, Marquardt and Nesholm. 516 High St.
  • (Photograph by Lynette Felber)

The modernist Carver Gymnasium, designed by Fred Bassetti and completed in 1961, was intended to expand the physical education facilities on the Western Washington University (WWU) campus. It was built in close proximity to Bebb and Gould’s existing Physical Education Building, completed in 1936 in the Romanesque Revival style. The completion of Bassetti’s addition created a courtyard that was subsequently filled in by a series of small buildings both in 1970 and again in 1994. The complex as a whole was named for the campus’s first director of athletics and physical education chair, Sam Carver, and—as campus development has proceeded to the south—is today prominently located in the central part of the WWU campus, just south of Red Square.

Bassetti’s midcentury addition provided 54,233 square feet of space, including three gyms (two with balconies), two classrooms, seven offices, a lounge, and locker rooms. It expanded the existing physical education space for the university by a considerable amount; Bebb and Gould’s earlier structure included space for only one gym and a pool. Architecturally, Bassetti’s addition is distinguished by thin, concrete pilotis at the east entrance and a gabled, sawtooth roof with clerestory glass, eschewing both the character and the modularity of the earlier gym which featured light brick cladding and Romanesque details. (Bassetti had used similar pilotis on the facade of the Viking Union two years earlier.) Bassetti’s new structure was clad in precast, scored concrete wall panels with a textured surface.

The Bassetti addition opened in time for the 1961–1962 basketball season. Because of the boggy site, pilings were installed before the foundation work could commence, and other work was delayed or never completed. According to an interview with Bassetti, the building was designed to have an external brick overlay, but it was too costly to survive the bid. Bassetti, whose typically brick-clad buildings have made a significant imprint on the WWU campus, later said he was not aesthetically pleased with the finished building, which he described as merely “utilitarian.” He added, however, that it has “served the College well.”

Carver Gym underwent a $70 million renovation in 2015–2017 to meet seismic and accessibility requirements, remove hazardous material, replace old mechanical and electrical systems, and add new classrooms, laboratories, and office space. The renovation, with design work by Loschky, Marquardt and Nesholm (LMN), involved the demolition of some of the existing infill buildings between the old and new gyms and the creation of the new, three-story, flat-roofed, mostly steel-and-glass structure in their stead. The building complex includes new energy-saving features, such as LED lighting and the re-use of existing materials. The changes include a new east entrance and lobby, which will obscure much of Bassetti’s original entrance facade.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lynette Felber
Coordinator: 
J. Philip Gruen
Robert R. Franklin
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Data

Timeline

  • 1936

    Original gym building constructed
  • 1959

    Design and construction of Carver Gym
  • 2015

    Design and construction of new classroom and laboratories building and new east entrance

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Citation

Lynette Felber, "Carver Gym", [Bellingham, Washington], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WA-01-073-0099-03.

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