Elegance Meets Speed: School Swimming Hall near London
Client: City of London
Architects: Hawkins\Brown, London
Planning of structural framework: Eckersley O’Callaghan, London
Location: Ashtead Park, Park Lane, Ashtead KT21 1ET (UK)
A detailed print documentation is available in our issue DETAIL 7+8/2019 concerning the topic "Architecture and Water".
Sports are an important part of life at most British private schools. The City of London Freemen’s School in Ashtead, southwest of the capital, is no exception. In 2014, the school’s swimming hall burnt down. Hawkins\Brown, who had already been commissioned with step-by-step renovations to the school buildings, were charged with the post-haste planning of a new building to replace the old swimming hall. In order to save building time and enable prefabrication of as many bigger parts of the building as possible, the architects decided in favour of a wooden construction of large, glulam framing as well as a stiffening ceiling and shear walls of cross-laminated timber. The structure was erected in situ in just over three weeks.
With its shell of brown standing-seam aluminum and brown, large-format plates of fibre cement, the low, new building stands diffidently on the park-like school campus, which covers 23 hectares. The single-storey entrance to the southeast is rather unspectacular; the changing rooms below have been dug into the rising terrain.
For the swimming hall itself, the client wanted a competitive-style, 25-metre basin with six lanes. With this in mind, the architects reduced the material palette and the number of visible installations to a minimum: uniform, light-coloured wall and floor tiles, acoustically effective glulam cladding for the walls and, above all, white-varnished massive wood surfaces determine the overall impression. With this degree of stringency in design, it was not difficult to create spatial interest. To this end, the architects used a subtle variation on the roof shape: the ridge runs diagonally through the building, from the entrance to the southeast to the northwest corner of the swimming hall.