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The American School in London completes 10-year masterplan

School reveals £10m pool and fitness building which marks the end of their plan to develop more space and facilities

Posted by Lucinda Reid | November 16, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

The American School in London has unveiled the final piece in its 10-year masterplan, a new swimming pool and fitness centre designed by Orms, an award-winning architecture and design practice based in London.

The new £10 million pool and fitness building opened for the new academic year in September 2016 and forms part of Orms’ 10 year master plan for the school, which identified science and sport as the two areas that required more space and facilities. The concept for this project was shaped by the demand for more space in an extremely constrained site and for improved on-site facilities for physical education. Orms’ proposal has been to carve out space under the existing playground and above an underground railway line, while allowing the school to remain fully operational, exempt the playground, throughout the construction period.

Swimming pool and fitness centre at The American School in London

Head of School at the American School in London Coreen R. Hester said: "The school has a long and successful history of collaboration with Orms dating back many years, including the company's support of our projects for developing the High School and redesigning our main entrance. It made perfect sense for us to work with Orms once again as we set about planning an aquatic and fitness centre for ASL. Orms is a great team of people, whose creativity and responsiveness consistently provide the solutions we are looking for at our school."

The majority of the new fitness centre sits at lower ground level under an exposed concrete roof. Key structural challenges have been to create generous head height for the swimming pool, fitness room and multi-purpose room, which has been achieved through a 10-metre deep excavation. In order to maximise natural daylight in this space and to remove the feel of being underground, Orms designed curved changing rooms, located as an object in the centre of the facility, covered with glass tiles to reflect the daylight and create glimpsed views into and across the 25 x 12 metre pool hall. Artificial lighting and acoustic absorption complement the exposed concrete structural slab. The design of Orms’ 1,430 sq m sports building also reinforces visual and physical connections with the existing high school and the completed arts building nearby, designed by Walters & Cohen Architects. The arts building is reachable through the new underground fitness centre, as is a new suite of science rooms by Ed Toovey Architects. Close collaboration among the 3 teams has enabled strategic interconnections between the individual buildings, which will enliven the circulation spaces across the southern end of the campus.

Richard Keating, Associate Director of Orms, said: “This has been an exciting project for us and technically very challenging, but the end result makes a huge difference to the vitality and curriculum of the school campus and is also testament of our great working relationship with the American School, which spans 20 years.”

Alongside the new pool and fitness building, the school also unveiled a new arts building which was completed by Walters & Cohen Architects. In 2011, the practice won an invited competition to design a new arts building for the school. Taking its cue from the mass and footprint of the listed, semi-detached villas on the site adjacent, the four-storey building is designed to resemble a single large property. The complexity of the project is heightened by its location on a prominent corner plot in the St John’s Wood conservation area, where proposed developments attract a lot of attention. Walters & Cohen Architects rose to the challenge and created a new building which has a sculptural quality that is fitting to the work that goes on inside.

New art building by Walters & Cohen Architects

Cindy Walters, Director at Walters & Cohen Architects, said: “We were delighted to win the competition to design a new art school at ASL five years go. The new art building replaces the form and volume of a large semi-detached St John’s Wood villa on the site that was demolished to make way for the railway tunnel into Marylebone Station. The site is also adjacent to a listed building and within a conservation area. The project was a brave undertaking and throughout the project ASL demonstrated all the qualities of an exemplary client; vision, ambition and dedication to the community they serve. ASL placed their trust in us as designers and we hope this trust has been rewarded by the ambitious new art building on the St John’s Wood campus.”

The American School in London, founded in 1951, is an independent, non-profit, college-preparatory day school for students in kindergarten through Grade 12. The student body comprises 1,350 boys and girls, who represent more than 60 nationalities.

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