Exemplary community sports and education facilities that fuse natural and artificial qualities in recognition of their landscape setting.
Hackney Marshes is best known as the London home of amateur Sunday League football. Designed by architects Stanton Williams, the new ‘Community Hub’ at the South Marsh, comprising new changing rooms, a café, and an education facility, was completed in 2011 at a cost of £5 million. The welcoming, inclusive structure recognises the special qualities of this place and connects with its wider setting, including the adjacent Olympic Park.
The centre is embedded within the landscape, avoiding the ‘tabula rasa’ approach of many sports venues. Plugging a gap in the trees that surround the pitches, its massing minimises its impact on the site. The overall impression is one of horizontality, with changing rooms arranged in linear fashion at ground level. The café and education spaces are placed above at one end, merging into the taller trees of the adjacent coppice. The layout fuses practicality and flexibility with the desire to celebrate the ritual aspects of football: not least the way that the act of changing fuses individuals into teams.
Materials have been chosen for robustness and for their ability to blend into the structure’s surroundings. Gabion walls provide a vandal-resistant envelope and function as a framework for climbing plants, creating a ‘green wall’. Weathered steel is used for cladding, shutters and louvres, offering a rich texture. Changing in colour over time, it emphasises the combination of nature and artifice that permeates the scheme.