Swimming Pool for a school in Beaconsfield
Text: Christian Schittich
Alfriston School, a special-needs secondary school, is located outside London, on the edge of a residential neighbourhood.
The existing school building is organised as linear cluster, running from the street to the vegetation in the rear, with small-scale gabled roofs of varying orientation. To its north a new swimming pool structure with expressive crown docks onto a sports hall with steep pitched roofs. Dark-grey rendered wall and plinth surfaces, and, in the longitudinal elevation, corresponding sloping roofs tie this new sports complex together. Mature trees provide a screen to the schoolyard.
The roof geometry, which consists of serial and interlocking pitched-roof elements, is a reinterpretation of the roofs present nearby. Inside, the sculptural form creates a ceiling with an undulating roofscape. The ceiling also serves an acoustic purpose: it reduces the noise level -thereby fulfilling an important requirement from the client’s brief. A band of glass just one metre in height accentuates the roof. This type of connection to the outdoors also provides the children a measure of privacy. Moreover, the glazed ribbon affords them a panoramic view of the surroundings as they jump in the pool.
The roof is made up of 26 triangular wood panels, which, once they have been mounted, constitute a stiff roof structure. The fabrication, construction sequence, and transport, however, all posed challenges. To guarantee precise execution and high-quality surfaces, the architects decided to have the panels produced off site. There was only one exception: due to its size, it was necessary to construct one gable element on site. Through the use of 30 modelling, in combination with 5-axis CNC milling, it was possible to secure a high degree of fitting accuracy with small dimensional tolerances; mock-ups were employed to test individual joints. The load-bearing elements were equipped with a weathertight membrane so that the roofing could be installed right after mounting was completed. The coatings on the inner surfaces were applied at the woodworking shop. Thus, assembly took just four weeks, and no scaffolding was required.