David Morley Architects
Buro Happold Engineers
Midland Steel Structures Ltd
Bovis Lend Lease
University of Bath
The English Institute of Sport is an elite training facility at the University of Bath – one of four regional centres providing facilities for world-class athletes. It comprises a multi-purpose sports hall, an eight-court tennis hall, a 140m indoor sprint track, a dojo, an indoor athletics hall and fencing sale, in addition to hydrotherapy facilities, fitness suite, sports injuries clinic, human performance centre and other auxiliary facilities. A key aim of the design was to ensure contact between visitors and users, achieved through high levels of visibility and natural ventilation and lighting from roof lights make it a more appealing environment to both groups.
Ged Roddy, Director of Sport at the University of Bath, said of the project ‘it puts us at the top of the tree in terms of university sports facilities. There isn’t one in the country that can compete.’ At the official opening, Tim Henman described the facility as a ‘world-class training environment.’
The primary structural challenge of the project was to enclose the large areas in a cost effective and aesthetically appealing manner. Each sports activity has a precisely defined minimum volume requirement which had to be kept free of obstructions. Steel was the obvious choice for a lightweight long span structure.
The tennis hall is bisected by a high level viewing gallery providing clear views to all eight courts. The walkway is supported by three structural ‘trees’, which also support the primary roof trusses at mid span. The ‘trees’ are three dimensional lattice columns, constructed from fully welded circular hollow sections. The unique feature of the trees is that they are also the primary element of the stability system for the tennis hall, as they cantilever up from the foundations to provide a row of lateral restraints in the middle of the hall. At 75m long, the primary roof trusses are expected to experience significant variations in length as the temperature varies in the unheated hall. Positioning the lateral restraints centrally allowed this movement to be accommodated without locking significant thermal stress in to the structure. They are detailed to minimise dust, and the design allows nets to hang from the bottom chord of the truss in both halls.
Externally the link between the University park and the new facility was created physically and visually through the colonnade. The 18m long spans, created by the innovative elliptical section steel support columns, give a muscular feel to this reinterpretation of the sporting tradition of ancient Greece and the Roman city of Bath.
Sporting achievement is high in public perception. As part of the efforts to raise national performance, this project is one of a small group which nurtures young talent, bringing it through to international competition.
The complex provides a gateway to the University campus, cleverly incorporating some earlier buildings.
The steel structures are well conceived and detailed, and make a strong contribution to the carefully constructed ambience of the institute, which is important for success with the young sportspeople.