Olympic team to design Plymouth Life Centre

THE Life Centre in Plymouth will be designed by the team that built the iconic “Water Cube” aquatics centre, pictured, for the Beijing Olympics.

And top British architect Will Alsop will also have a hand in the project, The Herald has learned.

The engineering and design group Arup is part of the team for the Life Centre. Arup played a major role in building Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre and National Stadium, and Beijing International Airport. The company has also been appointed to build the aquatics centre for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The lead designers for the Life Centre are the award-winning firm SMC Charter Architects, part of the SMC Group.

Nalin Seneviratne, Plymouth City Council’s head of asset management, yesterday confirmed the appointments.

Click here!And he said that SMC Charter had been contracted to involve Will Alsop in the design.

“Managing to get Arup is a real coup for us.”

The project is being co-ordinated by EC Harris.

“I made it absolutely clear to them that we had to have a team that was fully experienced in the mechanics of swimming pools,” Mr Seneviratne said.

“These things have to work – and they have to work properly.”

Plymouth’s Olympic diver Tom Daley said: “That’s pretty cool. If it could be anything like the Water Cube that would be fantastic. It’s good to know it’s in good hands.

“The Beijing pool was great. It had everything. If Plymouth is going to be even the littlest bit like that it would be great.

“When the Life Centre is built we will be able to hold national and international competitions and host the 2012 training camps.

“It means I will be able to carry on training at home for longer before the London Games. I won’t have to spend so much time away, just wanting to get home to Plymouth.

“It will be great.”

Chris Couch, the father of Plymouth Olympic diver Tonia Couch, said the Beijing Water Cube was “fantastic – if we could get similar facilities in Plymouth that would be brilliant”.

He said: “If the Chinese trusted them to get it right, I’m sure they’ll do a good job for us.

“But we haven’t yet seen the plans for the dry training facilities. What we want is not only a competition venue but also dry training.”

Ian Potts, director of the Architects Design Group in Plymouth, said: “The design is paramount. “We’ve seen the potential of our local sports men and women. It’s essential the Life Centre not only provides the facilities they need but also encourages and uplifts them.

“Arup and SMC will be up to the job, so long as the process is managed properly and the budget is adequate. The last thing we want is another Pavilions. If there isn’t enough money for a proper Olympic pool this will be a disaster.

“It’s essential the Life Centre provides the best possible quality or we’ll be letting our sportsmen and women down.”

The SMC and Arup team will now start developing the design in preparation to submit a planning application during the winter. This process will involve concept designs and energy strategy evaluations.

The project team, headed by Plymouth City Council community services director Clive Turner will visit the £37 million K2 leisure centre in Crawley, West Sussex. K2 is thought to be the “most comparable” leisure centre in Britain, and the Plymouth team will be seeking to learn lessons from it.

SMC Charter Architects designed Norwich’s Riverside Swimming Centre opposite the Norwich City Football Club ground. The centre opened in 2006. It has a 25-metre swimming pool and learners’ pool; sauna and steam room; spa pool; fitness gym; exercise studio and crèche.

The practice was also appointed by the London Borough of Redbridge to design a £27.5 million leisure development with an Olympic swimming pool, two other pools, a 12-court sports hall and health and leisure facilities.

A £7.1 million major swimming pool complex for Wellingborough Borough Council is underway, and the practice has also been appointed to complete a feasibility study for an Olympic pool by Ipswich Borough Council.

The practice is part of the SMC Group, an architectural company of 440 staff based in 20 offices in Britain and overseas. It has offices in London, Bournemouth, Ipswich and Bedford.

The company boasts of extensive experience in the residential, education, government, sport and leisure, health, transport, commercial and retail sectors. Awards include the National Housing Excellence award in 2006 for Seldown Eco-Village in Poole, Dorset.

The choice of SMC and Arup has to be ratified by the city council’s Cabinet, at its meeting next week.

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