Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission

Southern Area Aquatics and Recreation Complex

Brandywine, MD

Project Type

Civic & Cultural, Sports & Recreation


79,000 Square Feet

Design Services

Architecture, Interior Architecture, Sustainability

Southern Area Aquatics and Recreation Complex (SAARC) is the first multi-generational recreation complex in Prince George’s County.

The facility includes group exercise rooms, four multi-purpose rooms for community use, a two-court gymnasium, indoor aquatics with wet classrooms, fitness and weight training spaces, and a 1/10-mile elevated track.


  • LEED Silver

Project Goals 

With an initial goal of achieving LEED Silver, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) wanted to design a sustainable recreation center.

Recreational and aquatics facilities can use a significant amount of energy to maintain comfortable air temperature, humidity levels, and appropriate lighting levels. The team focused on designing systems that would reduce energy use for heating and cooling. The power purchased for building operations comes from 100% non-fossil fuel sources such as solar and wind power and is naturally renewable. Expansive areas of glass provide an abundance of natural light in the building, reducing the need for artificial lighting during the day. The glass also provides views of the natural setting of the building, an important feature for recreation and wellness.

  1. Elevate the quality of community engagement by creating a vibrant place for physical and social activities
  2. Maintain the visual connection to the established Heritage tree and surrounding park
  3. Employ sustainable design approaches


This development concept cleverly integrates the site’s natural attributes to forge a civic asset, all while safeguarding the view of the surrounding park. The envisioned two-level center encompasses features like a lap pool, indoor track, multi-purpose courts, fitness and exercise areas, and versatile program rooms.


The SAARC site design embraces history and nature in a suburban landscape.

SAARC’s site was once farmland until the early 1900s and is now encompassed by suburban developments. The area is rich with forested landscape, and it features a remarkable 175-year-old willow oak tree that stands as a centerpiece. The new building is thoughtfully positioned about 150 yards away from this iconic tree. The layout of SAARC has been carefully planned to provide picturesque views of the surrounding forest, with particular emphasis on the majestic willow oak tree.


The complex is a vibrant community hub and integrated space for physical and social engagement.

SAARC establishes a vibrant hub for both physical and social engagement, elevating the communal experience for all members. At its heart, the atrium functions as both a central pathway and a gathering space, intersecting the community-oriented section of the facility. This segment comprises administrative spaces, group fitness areas, a versatile kitchen for external caterers, multi-use rooms, program spaces, as well as recreational zones like the natatorium, gymnasium, and fitness areas. Another facet of augmenting user satisfaction is the indoor running track on the mezzanine level, promoting a direct connection with essentially every aspect of the facility.

“The building is welcoming rain or shine, so true to its concept, and well built. The patrons can feel all that you put into it. I’m so proud, thankful, and grateful to have been part been part of SAARC’s development and delivery. It was an amazing team effort!”

– Yvonne T. Johnson, Architectural Supervisor, M-NCPPC


A model for multi-generational recreation centers.

As part of the M-NCPPC’s Formula 2040, nine service areas across Prince George’s County were identified to ensure that every resident could access at least one recreation facility within a 15-minute travel time. As part of the Formula 2040 vision, the Southern Area Aquatics and Recreation Complex became the first new multi-generational centers to operate in Service Area 9, setting a precedent for future centers throughout the county.