The Sapphire Ice & Leisure centre in Romford, a striking building designed by Saunders Boston Architects and built by Willmott Dixon, has opened its doors five years after the old ice rink closed. Saunders Boston Architects used innovative lighting and space concepts to overcome the limited build space of the centre; named in honour of the Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee.
Supporting the London Borough of Havering’s long-term commitment to providing state-of-the-art leisure facilities for the local community, the leisure centre features a state of the art ice rink, eight-lane swimming pool, learner pool, and fitness suite. A normal design process for such a project would see the pool and ice rink side by side at ground level, however the restricted site and build space resulted in Saunders Boston Architects designing one of only a handful of leisure centres in the UK with an ice rink constructed directly above the swimming pool.
A further challenge was the lighting design as the right atmosphere is critical to swimming pool halls – natural light is needed for the quality of the space yet excess glare on the water can interfere with lifeguard duties. The team created a solution to this in the striking façade design, using translucent polycarbonate panels to minimise glare and allow natural light through in the day, whilst projecting artificial light out at night.