Pickaquoy Leisure Centre
|Project Reference||Pickaquoy Leisure Centre|
|Details||Leisure/Arts / Public Realm|
|Location||Kirkwall, Orkney Islands|
|Client/Developer||Orkney Islands Council|
|Lead Designers||Morrison Construction / Keppie Design|
|Planning Authority||Orkney Islands Council|
|Planning Ref||Approval of Matters Specified in Conditions Ref: 10/616/AMC|
This report relates to proposals for the extension of the Pickaquoy Leisure Centre in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, which is one of four projects belonging to the Orkney Schools Investment Programme, representing the biggest single investment in community facilities that Orkney has witnessed to date. The scheme was presented at an A+DS Design Review meeting held on 15th December 2010 in Bakehouse Close, Edinburgh.
In general we support the intention to extend the existing centre and create a new swimming and leisure pool and other associated facilities. However, we believe that the current scheme could be improved to make more of the existing building, respond to the site conditions, and reflect the character of the town more successfully. We also note the status of the proposals, i.e. the current planning application is for Matters Specified in Conditions of the Outline Planning Consent granted in September 2008 and that the layout of the site, means of access to the site, and the siting and design of the building are all subject to consideration at this stage.
2 Site Layout
2.1 Response to Existing Site Layout
The proposals plan to utilise the existing main entrance to the centre and connect the new facilities via the entrance foyer, which appears to result in an efficient overall internal arrangement. However, this also seems to have two detrimental consequences: firstly the proximity of the new car parking area to the main entrance in terms of both physical and visual connection, and, secondly the substantial difference in floor levels between the entrance foyer and all other spaces within the centre. As such, we advise the Project Team to reconsider the arrival sequence of the proposed site layout and to revise the internal arrangement accordingly to improve wayfinding and the overall accessibility of the centre.
2.1 Car Parking
The Project Team confirmed that the new car park in the north eastern part of the site is intended to be used only at the busiest times for events as an overspill for the existing car park situated on the opposite side of the access road in front of the centre. It is unfortunate, given its limited capacity and the site area available for an alternative solution, that the main car park should be separated from the building in this way. Therefore we encourage the Project Team to reconsider the orientation of the proposed extension and explore if the new building could be arranged more horizontally to increase the space directly in front for parking, which would improve the proximity of the arrival area to the main entrance. Such an arrangement could also provide safer access for families and more shelter from inclement weather conditions.
Should an overspill car park be required, we recommend that the layout and specification of the associated area be less heavily engineered than what is currently proposed and designed to avoid the potential for the building service areas to be confused as a public entrance to the building.
2.3 Public Realm
The extension and redevelopment of the leisure centre site presents an opportunity to strengthen its physical connection with the town. Reconsideration of the new car park as part of the site layout could also produce space to create public realm in front of the centre with connections both visually and physically to the town. We advise the Project Team to examine the conditions of the existing urban fabric more closely and to consider how a holistic approach to public realm improvements both in and around the site could enhance the overall sense of place.
3 Building Design
3.1 External Appearance
The proposed form of the extension and the use of many different materials give the impression of an overcomplicated building that works against and detracts from the architecture of the existing centre with which it will be conjoined. We recommend that the Project Team reconsider the external appearance of the extension, particularly where it engages with the existing main entrance, in favour of a solution that is simpler, elegant and more responsive to the proportions of the existing centre whilst nevertheless regarded as a contemporary building.
3.2 Internal Arrangement
We acknowledge the apparent efficiency of the proposed layout of the new internal spaces and pools, and the options it could offer the centre in terms of adjacencies, functionality and flexibility. However, whilst the diagram of the building has such advantages, we have concerns over its impact on the siting of the building and the grounds belonging to the centre, as noted above, and recommend that the Project Team consider how the internal arrangement might be refined to allow improvements to the proposed site layout.
4 Landscape Design
The Project Team explained that the landscape proposals incorporated as part of the extension development reflect and continue the planting that exits on the site. We question the appropriateness of the existing landscaping as a valid reference from which to design proposals as the quality and character shown in the images provided does not appear to have been successful. We recommend the landscape design should be simpler, bolder and more contemporary to create meaningful spaces that refer to the unique attributes of the townâ€™s landscape and make a contribution to the existing urban realm. The opportunity to provide shelter around the arrival space using landscape features should also be investigated. We note that a more refined solution could have less intensive and hence less costly maintenance requirements than what is currently proposed.
Without doubt the extension of the existing leisure centre will be a positive development for Kirkwall and improve both the range of facilities and the lifestyle of its residents. We feel that there is scope for the Project Team to reconsider certain aspects of the proposals in order to root the proposals more firmly in both the physical form and heritage of the town, and we encourage the Council to exercise the opportunity to do so whilst considering the current planning application. Above all, we promote that any new buildings and landscaping should be designed with the intrinsic qualities of the site and Orkneyâ€™s microclimate in mind as a contemporary solution that reinforces the distinct character of the town.