It seems that our cultural perception of sports facilities can be divided between two distinct typologies: the iconic and the prosaic. The former a symbolic gesture, realised as a standalone building of singular purpose, the latter the ubiquitous tin shed – an incidental building delivering a profoundly internal experience. Though there is of course nuance between these two extremes, they can largely be divided into one camp or the other. But there is another way.
As a practice, our engagement with sports facilities has been sporadic over the years and always in a more unusually civic and social context. From our 2007 Aqualibrium project in Campbeltown, delivering a swimming pool alongside community facilities that included a library and a crèche, to our recent work at Kelvinhall, creating a facility that will be home to a broad range of users, with everything from badminton courts to the Scottish Screen Archive. Certainly a nod to the iconic, but with a distinct community focus and anything but singular.
Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games was a resounding success in 2014 and its legacy is still being understood. Part of this is the stated objective to get more people involved, engaged and excited about sport. Whilst international facilities can be an asset to any city, drawing in visitors and media attention for large sporting events, without a longer term view they can also be detrimental; an unnecessary extravagance if they serve no lasting purpose. A ‘destination building’ must also be fundamental and necessary if it is to be absorbed into the fabric of our cities; contributing to the lives of those most affected by it.
The crux of it is how our sports buildings interact with the communities they serve when the crowds have gone and the excitement has dissipated. This is where we can make a real difference; where we can exploit the potential of these buildings to make them much more than a transient experience; of national importance and local significance. A legacy in the truest sense.