The vision for the RIBA open competition-winning scheme was to create a bold yet gentle fusion of architecture and landscape that would stimulate long-term regeneration in Scunthorpe. The brief called for an innovative design that would reinterpret the traditional ‘shoebox’ sports building to produce an inspirational attraction that would draw people back into Scunthorpe Central Park and encourage active recreation. The district sports facility is approximately 5000m2 and includes a 25metre, 8 lane swimming pool, a training pool, a 6 court sports hall, a health and fitness centre, a café and associated offices and support facilities.
The masterplan is structured around a new east-west pedestrian boulevard, which connects key town centre destinations to activities at the heart of the park. The Sports Academy’s position aims to distinctively re-activate the eastern park gateway. A welcoming entrance opens up access and views through planting, restoration of existing gardens. The creation of flowing lagoons and swales within the landscape around the academy enhances the invitation to both the Sports Academy and Central Park beyond. The concept places public activities such as the entrance, café, and its mezzanine to the south of the complex within a glazed dome to attract visitors. A central internal spine feeds a series of individual activity zones with wet and dry facilities on either side.
The envelope wraps the three-dimensional sports constraints within an undulating composition – achieved using interlinked geodesic timber shells that roll gently into the landscape. The shells near the entrance are steeper to enclose a viewing mezzanine and create drama at the entrance to Central Park. The larger shells over the pools and sports halls are gentler to minimise impacts while still arching sufficiently to keep member sizing to a minimum. A key aim of the concept was to create an architectural solution that made community linkages rather than separation (as is often evident in box-like sports buildings) so the envelope is designed to flow over the internal spaces to maintain visual contact across the building. The spacious, unified feel allows different sportspeople, as well as families and casual users, to see the variety of activities, inviting them to engage in the excitement of participation.
The envelope acts to visually extend the landscape through the gently domed and partly vegetated shell structures, which provide a subtle human scale where they meet the ground. The envelope is covered with a transitional sequence of materials; glass and steel for the entrance dome moves to timber over the cafe and fitness areas then to sedum and membrane for the swimming pool and sports hall. Swales around the complex are fed by run-off from the roof and paths to provide irrigation for the roof planting and attenuate rainwater. The design fuses landscape and building to create a flowing, seamless experience within Central Park. The structure of the shell roof was optimised to assume rational form and minimise the amount of material required, with triangulated joint lines visually expressing the distribution of structural forces. The design shows how traditional box-like sports buildings can be transformed into inspirational, well-engineered solutions that can work in harmony with our environment.
The overall, doubly curved form was developed through tessellation of a series of flat triangular panels across the surface to achieve a rounded outline. A grid of Glulam beams supports each of the triangular panels. These are joined together using a steel node with the connection via fixed rods in the ends of the Glulam beams. External materials on the outer surface of the domes range from a single ply membrane with additional rain screen finishes, to a sedum green roof, cedar shingles, metal cassettes and a glazed entrance dome. Beneath, the domes are covered with specially constructed softwood prefabricated cassettes with a plywood outer skin. The soffit is made up of cedar timber slats for acoustic insulation. Internal materials are carefully selected to reflect the natural materials of the building fabric. The intention is to celebrate the dynamic internal vista of the complex timber roof structure by creating subtle and contrasting elements that complement the internal soffit. A restricted palette of colours gives a neutral backdrop for the timber and accent colours define elements and spaces. Being a sports academy, the finishes are robust with simple, high quality and cost effective solutions used wherever possible.
A comprehensive landscape and sustainable water strategy has been developed to enhance biodiversity and minimise water wastage and flood risk. Rainwater run-off is collected from the roofs and grey water is treated and fed via Leca pits to fill the external lagoons. A highly energy efficient building has been achieved through insulation, an airtight envelope, and heat recovery systems to reduce consumption. Local parkland clearings and wood chippings feed the biomass-fuelled heating and cooling systems. Ancillary areas such as offices are naturally ventilated.Location: Scunthorpe, UK
Architects: Andrew Wright Associates with S&P Architects
Award: World Architecture Festival 2011 – Shortlisted