2021 GFD 🏆 Awards

Second Award | Marvin Gaye Recreation Center | ISTUDIO Architects

This building breathes, you feel it as you walk in the door. A  building system designed to mimic the ebb and flow of the adjacent environment, creating a recreation center that is as active and vibrant as the community it was built for. Named after the singer Marvin Gaye, built in his childhood neighborhood, the center was designed to both honor the singer’s career and to provide a large gathering place flexible enough to meet the diverse needs of the community. As one of the first resilient hubs built in the District of Columbia, the intent is in times of an environmental or social crisis, the local “hub” where people already congregate is also able to withstand stressors in times of need. For this reason, the design of Marvin Gaye Recreation Center was strategically considered for the resilence from two perspectives: site and community.

Global Future Design Awards 2022: Discounted Entries Open Now! Save $50
Super Early Discount – 20th October 2021 to 30th December 2021 – $199 = $149

🏆 Second Award
Global Future Design Awards 2021

Marvin Gaye Recreation Center
Institutional Architecture Built

ISTUDIO Architects

Rick Schneider

Design Team
ISTUDIO Architects, DC Department of General Services

Washington, DC

United States

©Hoachlander Davis Photography

The challenge was to design a new green recreation center on a tight urban site already dense with outdoor program that sits in a 100-year floodplain. Outdoor spaces were designed to keep existing football basketball, play programs while adding trail and site accessibility. The building is sited adjacent to the do-not-build riparian zone, and then raised up on an earth berm to protect against flooding. Deep foundations provide stability and withstand scouring in the event of a flood. Smart stormwater management strategies like bioswales, native plantings, and careful siting near the riparian zone increase biodiversity and make for a healthier natuarl environment.


The building is designed to be resilent, withstanding stressors like floods and power outages. It’s the city’s first community center with integrated natual ventilation – a key part of the building mechanical system and an innovative energy efficient way to provide cooling and fresh air. Inside, biophilic designs draw from the surrounding environement to create space that are restorative and healthy. Dynamic light and visual connections to nature connect community members with the cyclers of the day and the seasons. Artwork is integrated into the building, planned from concept, and carefully designed with local DC artists to ensure art is a celebrated piece of the center. Outside sunscreens, and other daylighting strateries define the architecture and save money on lighting and HVAC.


The center is sited along Marvin Gaye Trail, providing access to a network of trails that lead recreational and outdoor enthusiasts along Watts Branch Stream, the largest tributary of the Anacostia River. The center is also the starting point leading visitiors into areas of great historical and cultural significance. It was designed for the neighborhood to gather around programs that building resilience. Inspiring spaces help these programs take root, with a demonstation kitchen, flexible community room, fitness center, and spaces for teens and senior citizens. In an underserved neighborhood with barrieres to social, economic, and environmental resources, Marvin Gaye Recreation Center provides funamental and sustainable space for culture and creativity to flourish necessary to resilient communities.

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