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Epic Buildings: Alfriston Swimming Pool

Nominated for the Building Awards Small Project of the Year 2015, Alfriston Swimming Pool, designed by Duggan Morris Architects, is an imaginative construction. Built to house a new swimming pool for Alfriston School, a state-funded facility for girls aged 11-16 with moderate learning difficulties, this striking creation melds the beautiful with the functional, resulting in an extraordinary space for both fitness and fun.

With an eye-catching timber roof, the new pool building has an incredibly distinctive “folded origami” feel, made up of complex geometric shapes. This unique roof serves a number of important purposes. It doesn’t just look bold while blending seamless into its natural Green Belt surroundings, it also reduces echo, making swimming lessons far easier and communication more effective inside.

The triangular roof structures were prefabricated off-site, then assembled at Alfriston using a well-thought out technique which concealed the vast majority of bolts. This allows the structure to appear to serenely“hang together”. The prefabrication aspect forced architects to design this space based on the maximum size of truss capable of fitting on the back of an articulated truck. Clever design, very difficult numbers to crunch!

Externally the roof is finished with a rain screen comprised of open jointed timber boards, inside, the structure is finished with a contrasting dark grey render, which lets the geometry and beauty of the interior speak for itself, illuminated through the impressive, continuous ribbon of glazing which looks out onto the school grounds from the pool.

With a steep level change to contend with, the designers chose to use a heavy concrete base, which forms the pool box. Inside, the surfaces and materials have largely been left untouched, to provide a natural feel, enhanced by the one metre high ribbon window which illuminates the space.

In the words of architect Joe Morris “This attitude of honesty and openness expressed in the roof structure was also driven through the detail and design of the interiors throughout, such that a load-bearing wall looks load bearing, materials intended to retain or reflect water do just that, and so on. You do not find excessive detail and material frippery.”

Are you inspired by Alfriston Swimming Pool’s imaginative construction? What’s the most radical building project you’ve ever worked on? Was it challenging or exciting? Share your experiences with other tradespeople below.