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HawkinsBrown complete timber pool facility for 'swimming among the trees'
23 Nov 2017 . BY Kim Megson
The space has been designed as 'a welcoming retreat that engages with the mature woodland setting through the use of natural materials and colour schemes'
Photo: Jack Hobhouse
Architects HawkinsBrown have completed an elegant timber pool hidden among the trees for a school in the English county of Surrey.

Swimmers using the 25m, six-lane competition pool can view the surrounding woodland through a series of windows integrated into the building’s timber frame.

The architects used off-site fabrication methods to create the facility for Freemen’s School in the village of Ashtead, which replaces a previous pool building destroyed by a fire in 2014.

“The space is a welcoming retreat that engages with the mature woodland setting through the use of natural materials and colour schemes,” said HawkinsBrown partner Adam Cossey.

“The deep columns of the all-timber construction and wrap-around glazing afford direct views from the water into the woodland, giving the sense of swimming amongst the trees.”

Fit out contractor Gilbert-Ash worked on the project, forming the building’s glue-laminated timber (glulam) portal frame, which is braced with cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels. According to the design team, the choice of the material was made in response to the need for a fast, efficient, carbon-neutral method of construction and a building that is resilient, insulates and is resistant to corrosion.

To minimise its impact on the school’s Grade II-listed landscape, the lower ground floor is partially submerged, moulding the structure into the surrounding scenery. The highest point of the gently pitched roof identifies the main entrance.

Inside, the natural internal surface of the roof and walls are left exposed and stained white, acting as “a complementary feature to the external setting that helps to create a special environment to swim in".

The frame, walls and roof were completed in just over three weeks, with the interior pool, changing facilities and multi-purpose teaching and events space following. The entire project – built in collaboration with structural engineer Eckersley O’Callaghan, landscape designer BD Landscape and arboriculturalist TreeLine – was delivered in one year.

The swimming pool marks the second phase of a four-stage campus masterplan by the City of London, which HawkinsBrown is delivering for the school.

Completed in 2014, the first phase saw the delivery of a new music school and a boarding house for 60 pupils. Future plans include the refurbishment of the Grade II* Listed Main House, a new playground and enhancements to the landscaping of the school grounds.

A number of developers have started to see the potential of swimming pools situated in woodland sites. Projects in the pipeline include a green-roofed aquatic centre surrounded by trees on the west coast of France, designed by architects Agence Search, and a swimming and leisure facility in a tree-filled park in Derby, UK, designed by FaulknerBrowns.
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