While providing much-needed services to a marginalized community in Newark, the Training Recreation Education Center (TREC) also demonstrates design excellence on a budget. The $11 million facility, which opened in November 2016, was commissioned by the Newark Housing Authority for the city’s South Ward and designed by Princeton, New Jersey–based Ikon 5 Architects. The goal was to give the area’s low-income families more economic opportunities by providing easily accessible job training and continuing-education classes. To increase the center’s gravitational pull, recreation and fitness were also part of the brief. The resulting 24,000-square-foot building includes a regulation-size basketball court, a community meeting room and kitchen, classrooms, and a daycare center.
The building’s parti, two triangular wedges (a transparent one that holds training spaces and an opaque one that houses athletic facilities), is a subtle nod to the surrounding diagonal street grid. But, more overtly, it is an iconic volume that announces its presence within the neighborhood of modest clapboard homes and brick public housing. “The city wanted this building to be unique in its appearance so that it would attract people from the community,” says Ikon 5 principal Joseph Tattoni.
To this end, the architects used white aluminum fins to create a rhythm on the facades while also shading the curtain wall. And to dress up the stucco expanses, the team installed the fins across the opaque surfaces as well, in place of control joints—the architectural equivalent of a white pinstripe suit. Since the start of the year, more than 550 people have come to the center; the city is still negotiating with providers for job training, but the children’s “Rising Stars Sports Academy” is in full swing and has been very successful, reports TREC.