CATO Education Center at the Harris YMCA

Charlotte, NC

The Harris YMCA’s programmatic goal was to create a new space to accommodate up to 250 students in Preschool, Afterschool and Summer Camp programs while providing additional parking and safer pick-up/drop-off areas. It also replaced a small, outdated field pavilion that served their park and athletic fields. From a master planning perspective, the facility, which terminates the axis of the Harris YMCA’s main entry drive at a new signalized intersection off of busy Quail Hollow Road, is designed as the first phase in the overall reorienting of the entire campus toward this intersection.

The classroom wing has been designed for tremendous flexibility to accommodate the three primary functions of the Half-day Preschool for infants through kindergarten, Afterschool Care for primary through middle school children, and Summer Camp programs. Its 10 classrooms utilize operable partitions for different configurations to better serve each function and individual restrooms designed for each user group at fixed classroom demising walls.

The facility has a kitchen that has likewise been designed for flexibility, serving as a warming kitchen for the Preschool, a teaching kitchen for cooking demonstrations for up to 50, and to provide concessions for weekend sports activities on the adjacent playing fields.

The Pavilion Airnasium can accommodate up to 600 people for public gatherings, as well as basketball, 4-square, volleyball and pickleball under cover. A raised platform creates both a stage within the pavilion and central gathering space for the playing fields.

Architecturally, the facility has been designed as contextual to the main campus, utilizing the general color palette of masonry of the existing facility. The Center’s main building, the Pavilion, while following the general palette, has been designed as the visual focus and terminus of the approach. In a nod to the YMCA’s camp programming, it has been designed to look and feel more rustic and camp-like with its barrel-vaulted roofing, stained glulam bow trusses, and tapered stone piers.