Bennetts Associates- Sports Hall, King's Cross

Project Name: Sports Hall, King's Cross

Company: Bennetts Associates
Sector: Community/Leisure

Structural Timber Awards 2020 – Architect of the year, Highly Commended

The King's Cross Sports Hall is an all-timber building with 'near zero' embodied carbon (with sequestration) with a sub-structure that rests gently on the shallow rail tunnels serving King's Cross Station. Completed as a highly adaptable, long-spanning structure, the building will cater and adapt to different uses. It will first serve as a construction skills centre providing locals with access to training and jobs, then transform into a community sports facility for LB Camden.

Set in a prominent location on York Way, the project successfully addresses the challenges of its urban context. The dark grey facade is a zinc-clad shell topped with a distinctive serrated roofline taking inspiration from the former rail sheds. The site Sports Hall sits on, replaces derelict land, bridging the gap and joining the existing neighbourhood and new King's Cross buildings.

The Sports Hall is designed to meet a near-zero carbon target, several innovative features were incorporated into the design, including various methods of ventilation and an optimised glazing ratio to provide daylight while reducing heat gains. Meanwhile, lightweight CLT with Glulam columns and beams characterise the interiors to give warmth and texture to the key spaces positioned on either side of a central spine that leads onto interconnected communal spaces.

As the structure only sits just over two metres above the operational rail Gasworks Tunnels, this posed a unique design and structural challenges throughout the project. Arup devised the use of shallow reinforced ultra-light weight concrete foundations to spread the superstructure loads over the historic tunnels. The linear nature of the CLT walls enables the uniformly redistribution of the two storey building's mass. Grand internal spaces and generous openings along the elevations were made possible by an innovative and efficient timber design which breaks away from the typical "boxed" CLT buildings.

Julian Lipscombe, Director, Bennetts Associates: "As our first completed all-timber and 'near-zero carbon' building, this project is hugely significant for us, with expertise already being applied to other commissions. Particular delights are rationalising extreme substructure challenges into a deceptively simple superstructure that echoes the site's railway heritage and the warmth of the timber interior acting as a beacon for the community."

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