24 May 2019

Case Study: City of London Freemen’s School Swimming Pool

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City of London Freemen’s School Swimming Pool lies low among an ancient woodland in the Green Belt, close to the school’s grade II* listed Main House – from which it is almost unseen, nestled discreetly behind trees.


Architect Hawkins\Brown sought to design a building which was both subtle and complementary, and triumphed with a sunken structure clad with dark copper-coloured standing seam zinc panels. The low form, achieved by partially submerging the pool to a lower ground floor level, is absorbed into the scenery – excluding only the gently pitched roof, which is further embellished by long-spanning portal frames in spruce glulam timber that gradually skew along the length of the building. This shifts the geometric shape into something refreshing and unexpected.


The glulam portal frames support an envelope of spruce cross-laminated timber including wall panels and roof slabs, below which large glazed panels go down to ground level, providing swimmers with direct views of the woodland.


The engineered timber has been left exposed internally and treated with white stain, leaving the grain visible. This natural finish creates a soothing and spacious hall which harmonises with the calming woodland setting beyond its walls.


However, the use of timber also has practical benefits as it provides thermal insulation and corrosion resistance – which are of particular importance in a highly corrosive swimming pool environment. It also facilitated prefabrication off-site, minimising waste and disruption to the school, and was assembled on-site in just over three weeks. From detailed design to full construction, the building was completed within a year.


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