Living Design

Industrial Strength:
Humboldt Fitness Center

When the 2008 recession took its toll in Humboldt, Kans., B&W Trailer Hitches co-founder Joe Works came up with a plan to help the community progress forward. To avoid layoffs, Joe paid employees to clean up the then-struggling town.

A little over a decade later, Humboldt is flourishing. Business is booming for B&W and other companies, with new specialty shops contributing to a renewed energy in Humboldt. Historic buildings around the main square have been restored into cafes, candy, ice cream and coffee shops, vacation rental units and a soon-to-be hotel. Under the campaign of ‘A Bolder Humboldt’, the Works family has steadily been reviving both the cultural and economic vitality of this small Midwestern town, one building (or multiple) at a time. The Humboldt Fitness Center is one of the most recently-completed projects.

Located less than a half mile down the road from B&W’s headquarters, the 10,000-square-foot fitness center was first imagined as an amenity to help boost the company’s wellness plan. It did not take long, though, for the intended audience to grow and include the entire community. Moving through the concept and design phases, we aspired to create special moments that would still tie the facility back to B&W and its industrial roots.

Bold, modern metal techniques command attention from every direction as you approach the building. The east and west façades are covered in raised diamond-shaped panels, fabricated by B&W. Angled cuts into these façades activate the corners and draw the eye in. Full-height glass connects the interior core with the dynamic exterior. Custom canopies, cut with B&W’s industrial tube laser, sweep across the north and south ends. The north canopy extends through the main entrance, which angles out to physically and visually welcome visitors.

The interior is unapologetically opposing from the exterior, and a stark contrast to the work environment of most in the town. The industrial metal exterior transitions to a soft interior core focused on humility, welcoming visitors with a place to recharge. Light-colored woods and neutral tones create an inviting environment for the community to prioritize health and wellness. The fitness center is a 24/7 hub for activity, from 3:00AM pickup basketball games, to the early evening rush of visitors getting out of school or work.

The fitness center is a space that challenges pre-conceived notions of small-town design. At the same time, the design fits – its industrial roots, the specific connection to one of Humboldt’s largest employers, and its combination of bold and humble moves. It is equally welcoming and approachable for third-shift factory workers, out-of-town guests and business executives. The fitness center is yet another momentous step towards creating a bolder Humboldt.

View the project