Sumers Recreation Center

St. Louis, Missouri, United States

1 / 8 – Photo credit: Peter Aaron



The new Sumers Recreation Center re-purposes and adds 66,000 square feet to WashU’s historic Francis Gymnasium, creating a gateway to a comprehensive recreation and sports complex.

As one of the first buildings designed by architects Cope and Stewardson for Washington University in St. Louis, the architectural significance of Francis Gymnasium was evident not only through its role on campus, but also as the venue for the 1904 Olympics. The gymnasium held its prestige until the 1980s, when a large Athletic Complex was added, relegating Francis Gymnasium to second-class status. The new Sumers Recreation Center re-purposes the obsolete interior of Francis and adds a new addition, transforming the building into an inspired gateway to a comprehensive recreation and sports complex.

The revitalization of the southwest corner of the Danforth campus enables the entire community a place to exercise, play, and socialize. This is accomplished through three major design initiatives: a new, welcoming arrival experience; improved visitor experience, visibility, and enhanced social connection; and seamless integration with campus.

The newly enhanced arrival sequence through the old Francis Gymnasium archway reopens and connects the greater campus to this state-of-art fitness center. The entrance is flanked by Wellness and Recreation suites, spinning facility, and café/lounge spaces that immediately place visitors in a space unquestionably built for action and interaction. The strategic removal of existing half-level floor plates creates a direct visual and physical relationship to the activities held within. Existing exterior masonry walls were retained while a new steel frame was inserted to enliven the interior. Masonry piers define the new addition and were added to the existing Athletic Complex to the north to unify the entire expanded facility.

The new Sumers Recreation Center provides the community with a modern and dynamic space to congregate in a facility that promotes healthy lifestyles and well-being.

In collaboration with Hastings + Chivetta.

Project Data

St. Louis, Missouri, United States
2013 - 2016
Washington University in St. Louis
102,000 SF


Merit Award, Excellence in Architecture