Since its opening, the aquatic centre has proven immensely popular. During summer, the facility even had to hire security staff to limit visitors eager to test the water.
Architecture as lightweight craft
This is an illuminating example of how architecture can make a vital, viable difference. Lean structure and Pilkington Optilam™ create a building of light and lightness. It has all of the hallmarks that define the difference between architecture as lightweight craft and building as the bloated body.
Facilities include a star attraction wave pool, 25 metre and toddlers pool and hydrotherapy pools. Sauna, creche and administrative offices are also located on the ground floor. Upstairs in the eastern end are gymnasium and aerobics facilities. A 50 metre solar heated outdoor pool caters for all weather types.
Architect Williams Ross has realised a sublime relationship between blue water and blue sky; between enclosure and the external world. Sliding doors further mediate between outdoor indoor pools and contribute to the floating pavilion ambience where structure is mirrored in the glassy pool surfaces.
Glass is central to the designer’s material palette
Glass provides the ‘invisible’ quality decisive to the distilled structural framework. The effect looking out is of calm transparency. Looking in, there is a visible excitement and activity of training and play. Rows of tapering, glass-reinforced concrete shells, reminiscent of yachting keels, create a marching rhythm along the main north/south elevations.
Internal motifs are repeated in the hull skylights and in details such as the laminated glass Pilkington Optilam™ stiffening fins that cast delicate patterns in morning and evening light. Eaves provide sun shelter during the day but are light catchers in the early morning and late afternoon at the business book-ends of the day. The glazing system allows pool users to feel fully connected to all of this. Artificial lighting is thus relegated to a fleeting appearance other than the short winter months.
Uncompromising light transmission
An east/west orientation and flared, extended eaves minimise direct light penetration during the summer months. This allowed the use of an economic, laminated glazing system that yields uncompromising light transmission through both walls deep into the belly of the complex. This investigation of natural light is brilliantly reinforced through a series of scalloped roof lights inspired by the ribbed floors of boat hulls. Highly sculptural, the up-turned hull-shaped pavilion roofs float above the keel-like columns, pierced by light shafts into the pool halls and flooded with daylight from shop-front glass curtain walls. A perforated steel mesh ceiling conceals the usual panoply of plumbing and ventilation services as well as softening the ricochet sounds of pool fun.
Two types of glazing systems are adopted throughout - the main hall wall panels are 8.38 mm Pilkington Optilam™ with suspended glazed fins bolted from the top to provide additional stiffening.
TV screen type 8.38 mm laminated clear glazing in a random mosaic pattern is used as a secondary detail element. This glass detailing denotes the aerobics, gymnasium and administration areas on the north and south facades. Double layer roof insulation assists acoustic and vapour control and minimises thermal bridging.
Life cycle analysis demonstrated a long-term energy efficiency of heat recovery based mechanical system. A building automation system promotes energy efficiency through automated lighting control and ongoing management of mechanical plant operating parameters for efficiency and comfort.