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Elevatus Designs Esports Lab for Purdue Fort Wayne

by: Jack Quigley
Elevatus Architecture recently expanded their higher education portfolio by designing Purdue Fort Wayne’s (PFW) new esports lab. Located within Walb Student Union on PFW’s campus, Elevatus reimagined 2,500 square feet of existing space to create a vibrant area meant to attract students and host esports clubs.

Todd Adams, Project Architect for Elevatus and Mandy Campbell, Interior Designer for Elevatus said they used input from school administrators and students to design a space that was both inviting to students and optimal for esports performance.

Designing an Esports Lab
As esports has skyrocketed in popularity during the past decade, higher education design firms like Elevatus find themselves designing more esports labs in universities across the state. Adams said there are technical requirements associated with projects like these that do not present themselves in other designs. A challenge Elevatus faced when designing this lab was locating technologically advanced equipment inside a building that features such rigorous construction.

“You have to think about how these various systems are going to interact and what they look like, so you don’t have wire mold on the walls and stuff hanging down from the ceiling,” Adams said.

Elevatus recently designed an esports lab for Trine University and despite the similarities between the two projects, Adams said there were additional challenges associated with designing PFW’s lab. Trine wanted a dark and techy space with low lights to help their competitive esports team, whereas PFW wanted a vibrant design to contrast the building’s dark tones and attract non-gaming students.

“For Purdue Fort Wayne, the space was being underutilized because of the design and the location of where it was in the building,” Adams said.

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He said unlike the Trine project where they built a facility from the ground up, Elevatus tailored PFW’s lab design so that technological equipment like gaming systems and fiber connectivity could still be present in an older building with harsh construction.

“It’s different than just cutting a hole in drywall and running it down,” Adams said.

Purdue Fort Wayne’s Lab
The Walb Student Union was built in the 1950s and sports a brutalist scheme with dark brown and red bricks, so the university wanted the new space to stand out as a modern accent to the building’s historic aesthetic.

“It’s very heavy construction with all brick and concrete blocks,” Adams said. “So, they wanted the space to be a contrast to attract students with something that was vibrant and alive with bright colors.”

Elevatus designed the space into two sections with flexibility in mind. One section is equipped with gaming computers and custom furniture where esports club members can compete and work on their gaming skills. On the other side, a lounge section includes community and high-top tables, chair pods and couches, and other communal features that appeal to kids who may not be a part of an esports club. Here, students can gather in different locations depending on who they are with or what games they are playing. They can watch television, play card games, or play Wii or Xbox with their friends without interfering with club members.

Adams and Campbell said that from the beginning of the project, PFW students and staff were heavily engaged in the design process.

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“Without student input, I don’t think this project could have happened,” Adams said.

Elevatus’ design team took students on a field trip to KI Furniture in Fort Wayne where they picked out chairs and tables that they wanted in their lab.

“There is some really unique furniture that they wanted to incorporate,” Campbell said “They wanted to focus on different pods and areas for kids to gather, and we tried to make the design so it was more furniture focused so it would stand out.”

Adams said that just like any other college sports team, esports clubs should be branded to stand out amongst other programs and their universities. Chairs in the gaming section of PFW’s lab feature a customized PFW mastodon logo on their backs that is unlike any other logo used by the school. The custom logo also appears prominently on the wall of the lab.

“It develops that camaraderie just as if you were on the football, baseball, or basketball team,” Adams said. “If you see the graphic, you’ll say ‘Hey, that’s the E-sports graphic.’”

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Adams and Campbell said projects like this one have helped Elevatus learn and adapt to new methods of design.

Adams said, “I think showing that we have the capability to think ahead and progress how these facilities are going to be implemented and used on campuses across the nation is very important.”

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