How can a new Aquatic Facility effectively train Olympians, serve its community, and enhance the student experience?

How can a new Aquatic Facility effectively train Olympians, serve its community, and enhance the student experience?

Project: UBC Aquatic Centre

Interior Designer: Tarisha Dolyniuk, ARIDO

Design Firm: MJMA & Acton Ostry Architects

Photographer: Emma Peter

The new UBC Aquatic Centre is located at the heart of the new student precinct and defines campus arrival. A unique hybrid program organizes the plan, allowing for Olympic level training and at the same time, continuous community and student use.

How can the new Aquatic Facility effectively train Olympians, serve its community, and enhance the student experience? How can it operate ‘learn-to-swim’ programs while at the same time run a 1000 person international swim meet? The plan is divided north-south into 4 program bars: Changerooms, Community Aquatics, Competition Aquatics and Spectator Bleachers. The new facility is fully accessible and inclusive, provides ideal acoustics for coaching communication and training, and all finishes and systems are designed for durability and ease of maintenance; all while visually symbolizing the eminent venue of international competition.

In addition to LEED Gold, the new facility focuses on daylight, innovative water re-use, and air quality strategies that are precedent-setting for North American aquatic facilities. The interior designers worked holistically with the HVAC design team to place supply air at a low level and integrated into benches placed at the centre of the
natatorium between the two basins. Return lines are placed within the pool gutters on the far sides of the pool creating the low-level replacement of chloramine-laden air with a new fresh air supply that is being pulled across the pool surface. This return gutter system is ducted back to the HVAC source and rather that expelling directly outdoors, it uses heat recovery first.

The planning requirement to co-program elite-level training and competitions with daily community and student use led to a 2-sided pool hall divided by ‘Y’ shaped columns and a continuous skylight bisecting the building. A translucent stretched screen is detailed to create a luminous barrier between the two spaces, reflecting abundant sunlight into the ‘leisure’ side while providing the required controlled and balanced light into the ‘competitive’ side. Sensors and zoned lighting control respond to natural lighting conditions.

The roof form of the building is bent and folded to provide rain protection and controlled admittance of daylight and directly translates as an interior ceiling form – creating a tessellated canopy encompassing the 4 program bars.

The interior designers worked closely with the ceiling product manufacturer to develop details and new trims and clips, to create a ceiling system that meets the required acoustic performance, while suited for humid pool conditions and an austere budget. The ceiling is devised as a simple t-grid system that holds ceiling tiles allowing for coaching activities and boisterous recreation and community functions to co-exist. The grid light quality is aligned with the competition pool lanes, allowing for swimmers to use the ceiling as a guide for backstroke training.

A continuous ceramic frit is added to the interior glazing screens. The pattern is conceptually derived from the abstraction of water imagery, generating a colourful screening quality diffusing daylight and views through the plan. The frit also provides a bold use of colour that can be seen from surrounding campus context; acting as both building expression and wayfinding.