The architect HawkinsBrown has used timber to create an elegant cathedral-like structure for a new swimming pool, a structure which is also corrosion-resistant, resilient and carbon-neutral.
The architect HawkinsBrown has used timber to create an elegant cathedral-like structure for a new swimming pool, a structure which is also corrosion-resistant, resilient and carbon-neutral. The new six-lane, 25 metre competition pool building stands in verdant parkland, surrounded by ancient woods, on the campus of City of London Freemen’s School, a co-educational private school for about 800 day and boarding pupils, near Ashtead Park in Surrey. In response to its sensitive location within the Green Belt, near ancient woodland and close to the school’s Grade II* listed Main House, the architect has created an exterior with minimal external impact, a simple, low-lying form, clad with dark copper-coloured standing seam zinc panels to respond to historic features in the main house. Its low form has been achieved by partially submerging the pool to a lower ground floor level, which moulds the building into its surroundings, and helped to preserve a large number of the existing trees. The building has a gently pitched roof with the highest point indicating a glazed main entrance. Once inside, in contrast to the modest exterior of the building, the reception area gives visitors a wide view beyond to the pool enclosure, a light and spacious hall of white-stained exposed glulam frames and cross-laminated (CLT) panels, its tranquillity heightened by beautiful views to the woodland outside. The two long sides of the pool are level with the ground and the large glazed panels between the columns go down to ground level, with direct views from the water out to the trees, giving the impression of swimming in nature. The pool itself, a waterproof concrete slab, is set into the ground at semi-basement level and the sloping ground allowed the east end of the building to accommodate two floors, a lower level of changing rooms and toilets which leads directly to the pool, and a steel-framed upper ground floor level which aligns with the main entrance and houses a flexible teaching space and event space, plus a large plant room. The swimming pool (which replaces one destroyed by fire) is the second phase of a four-stage masterplan by HawkinsBrown to improve the quality of the school’s listed campus setting. It was designed with a range of users in mind and is fully accessible. Outside school hours it can be used by local residents and swimming clubs.