Located at the City of London Freemen’s School in Ashtead, the swimming pool building boasts an exposed timber frame that incorporates windows looking out onto the surrounding woodland.
HawkinsBrown chose materials and construction methods to complement the building’s natural setting. The primary structure is a portal frame constructed from glue-laminated timber – an engineered wood creating from glueing together several sheets of wood in parallel.
This is braced with cross-laminated timber panels – a similar but even stronger form of wood, made with layers positioned at right angles to one another.
“Freemen’s School’s new swimming pool is a welcoming retreat that engages with the mature woodland setting through the use of natural materials and colour schemes,” said Adam Cossey, a partner at HawkinsBrown.
“The deep columns of the all-timber construction and wrap-around glazing, which afford direct views from the water into the woodland, give the sense of swimming amongst the trees.”
HawkinsBrown designed the pool as part of an ongoing masterplan for the school, where the firm has already completed a music school and boarding house that combine sandy coloured brickwork and timber screens.
The new building replaces the school’s original pool, which was destroyed by a fire in 2014, and relocates it from the west to the east side of the campus so it is adjacent to the existing sports facilities.
The 25-metre, six-lane competition pool is supplemented by changing rooms, and a multipurpose teaching and events space. To deliver this programme without causing too much disruption to the surrounding landscape, part of the building is submerged below ground.
The ridges of the building’s wooden frames are offset and staggered along the building’s length to create a dynamically shaped roof, with its highest point at one corner signalling the location of the main entrance.
The engineered wood is finished to a high enough standard that it was left exposed internally and treated with a white stain so the grain remains visible.
The chosen construction method allowed the structure to be prefabricated off-site and then assembled in just over three weeks. This meant the entire project from detailed design to completion took just one year.
In addition to providing a warm and natural finish that echoes the surrounding trees, the timber surfaces are robust, thermally insulating and corrosion resistant.
The completion of the pool building marks the second phase in a four-stage masterplan for the school’s campus that will also see HawkinsBrown refurbish the historic Main House and create a new playground, alongside improving the landscaping of the grounds.
The firm, founded by Russell Brown and Roger Hawkins, has offices in London and Manchester, and works across a range of scales and typologies.
HawkinsBrown previously worked with cross-laminated timber on an apartment block in London, which it claimed at the time was the tallest in Europe to utilise this construction method.
The studio’s other projects include a wooden treehouse suspended from the ceiling of a theatre company, and the refurbishment of the Bartlett School of Architecture.
Photography is by Jack Hobhouse.
Structural engineer: Eckersley O’Callaghan
Services: Skelly and Couch
Landscape designer: BD Landscape
Transport engineer: Motion
Ecology advisor: Aspect
BREEAM assessor: SRL
Project management: Pick Everard
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