Green Building & Design — "From Decommissioned Power Plant to Wellness Center at Beloit College"

'The impetus for the power plant transformation came from Beloit President Scott Bierman on one of his routine runs around campus. “I had just gone past the existing Quonset Hut that was the campus fieldhouse, and I remember having the thought that it had long lived past its usable life,” Bierman says. “Then I jogged down Pleasant Street past the recently decommissioned Blackhawk Power Station, and I thought, ‘My gosh. I wonder if this could be used for a rec center.’”

Juliane Wolf, partner and design principal at Studio Gang, worked with Bierman and Beloit’s vision to transform the historical power plant into a human-use building for Beloit students and the surrounding community. While the large floor plan allows for impressive amenities like a running track, fitness level, conference facility, café, lecture hall, and batting cages, the immense layout needed to be reimagined in order to create welcoming spaces.

“Sometimes with these industrial buildings there’s a scale and logic to the structure and envelope that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the health and well-being of human occupation,” Wolf says. By breaking down the scale and taking a playful approach to the robust and serious structure, Wolf was able to give the power plant a human quality that meets the needs of the college and community.

Wolf explains it was the “robust flexibility that was really unique for Powerhouse.” Once the polluted, heavier equipment was removed from the building, the existing steel structure harnessed impressive load carrying capacity. Studio Gang used the building’s inherent strength to create unexpected design elements—like suspending a running track from the ceiling and adding an additional level to hold fitness equipment. “It’s using architecture to create that transformation on a spatial level in order to make it this environment you actually want to be in that doesn’t feel too overwhelming or too cold,” she says.

Studio Gang worked to highlight the origin of the historic building by keeping existing power plant elements in the design. The original smokestack, for example, now serves as a skylight, and a truss that was discovered by the contractor mid-project now has a glass facade to serve as a sightline between the running track and pool.'

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Juliane Wolf at AIA Wisconsin

"Enhancing Equity and Resiliency Through Reuse"

AIA Wisconsin & AIA Milwaukee End of Year Event

December 2, 2021
5:00 p.m. CT

The Cooperage Milwaukee
822 South Water Street, Milwaukee

Tickets and more information


Azure — "In Wisconsin, Studio Gang Revives a Coal Plant into a Recreational Hub"

Azure — "In Wisconsin, Studio Gang Revives a Coal Plant into a Recreational Hub"

"While the imposing vestiges of industry still line the banks of the Rock River, a wave of adaptive reuse has gradually ushered in a new economy of offices and recreational hubs. It’s an evolution emphatically and elegantly encapsulated in the revitalization of a decommissioned, century-old power plant into a showpiece multi-purpose complex at Beloit College."