GT3 Architects receive Best Leisure Architecture UK award at prestigious International Property Awards

Harmony between Slough Urban Renewal’s Vision and GT3 Architects’ Mission

Situated in the ‘Greater London Urban Area’, Slough was once considered a poor relation to other boroughs in the region and in much need of investment.

We were commissioned by Slough Urban Renewal (SUR), a proud partnership between Slough Borough Council and Morgan Sindall Investments Limited, to support them in meeting their aspirations for the borough. Their vision states:

“Slough is enjoying an epic period of rejuvenation and renewal. SUR is about creating iconic buildings, open spaces and connectivity, enhancing and improving local schools, providing high-quality new homes and leisure facilities in Slough. We also aim to maximise the local community benefits by supporting local companies and raising skills and training.”

Our client was ambitious, future focused and had an eye on delivering real value for the people of Slough. The latter point resonated in particular with GT3 Architects’ ‘People Architecture’ ethos.

Now, Slough is benefiting from what SUR describe as ‘epic regeneration’.

Their leisure strategy, which aims to promote active lifestyles and address health issues in the local area, included the delivery of four sport, leisure , community and activity centres designed and delivered by GT3 Architects. They include:

The Centre – A neighbourhood feel with state-of-the-art facilities.

The Centre is an £18m newly refurbished wet and dry sport and leisure facility, carefully designed to cater for the diverse needs of the local population. It was opened to the public on 25th March 2019 and is considered to be Slough’s flagship leisure centre.

Slough Ice Arena – Shaping a 1980s facility for the future.

Montem Ice Arena was stripped back to the original steel and significantly refurbished to include a wide range of facilities including an ice arena, climbing wall and party zone. It was home to ITV’s Dancing on Ice contestants in 2019 and is also used by SPICE who teach children and young adults with additional needs to ice skate in a calm and caring environment.

Langley Leisure Centre – Revamp helps more people to ‘get active’.

This project, with a value of £6.5m was a refurbishment of an existing facility to provide better pool and fitness facilities.

Salt Hill Activity Centre – An inclusive, dynamic and lively centre for the whole family.

Salt Hill Activity Centre was commissioned to provide an all-weather indoor fun and adventure centre suitable for all members of the family. The space includes a ten-pin bowling centre with bar, a large soft play area, a trampolining zone with games, a battle pit, a high-wire climbing zone with tight ropes, a caving zone and a hospitality area.

Design Context

Slough Urban Renewal’s promise to create ionic new buildings with maximum benefit to residents and minimum impact on the environment formed the basis for a forward-thinking design brief.  The leisure centre needed to play its own part in making Slough a more desirable place to live, work and invest in – both now and in the future.

The Centre would have to be eye-catching, it needed to be modern and future-proof.  To be constructed in place of an ageing 20th century three-storey conference centre building, the new facility would need to fit within the confines of an existing 0.8 hectare brownfield site alongside the A355 Farnham Road, a main north-south artery between Amersham and Windsor.

At the same time, the leisure centre building design had to integrate harmoniously within a busy townscape setting.  Surrounded by an incoherent mix of sub-urban residential, commercial and industrial units, community and school buildings, the new building would have to create a clear and yet complementary identity of its own.

As a cutting-edge leisure centre offering Slough people an all-new mix of both wet and dry sporting activities, the building design would ideally also help to clearly communicate and its function and facility to the passing public.  One of the earliest schemes within SUR’s regeneration programme, it needed to make a bold statement.

Both main and learner swimming pools, the fitness suite and public areas needed to maximise the amount of natural light entering the interior without incurring any glare.  The sports hall had to maintain a consistent ambient light level and the swimming pools’ thermal efficiency in particular had to be taken into account.

Design Concept

The overall design concept is based on physically expressing the ‘dry’ leisure and the ‘wet’ leisure as a series of interlocking elements that would allow each to be distinguishable within an over-arching language, ultimately with the aim of showcasing the different elements of the leisure offer within.

The ‘dry leisure’ elements are large and predominantly solid volumes which draw reference from the metallic boxes of the neighbouring industrial estate.

The ‘wet leisure’ element by its nature is a more transparent volume to offer light in and views out.

The boxy form took inspiration from the one of the UK’s largest trading estates located adjacent to The Centre. As a ‘hotbed’ of industry and business, the area is industrial in its nature.

We chose to echo this in the volume and massing of the site whilst also adding colour, texture and careful material choice to support the site to become a beacon for activity.

We recognised that the scheme needed to meet the aspirations set our in SUR’s masterplan and to be appropriate to the ongoing levels of regeneration in one of the fastest growing towns in the UK.

We chose to use transparent materials and perforated cladding to give the facade depth and activity during daylight hours, and so that it also came alive at night when lights were on inside the building, effectively lighting up the facade and encouraging visitors into the building.