A swimming pool for students with special educational needs at a school in Buckinghamshire, sheltered by a raised timber roof.

Alfriston School
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
£1.8 million

“On its own terms this project is almost perfect.” Rowan Moore, Architecture Critic, The Observer
“We didn’t just want a functional pool, but a place designed such that the pupils would really want to go in it. If we were going to do it, we had to do it right. The architect understood our needs and responded with enthusiasm and creativity.” Jinna Male, headteacher, The Observer
“It commands its situation with quiet intensity, much like a gymnast bent on making a complicated procedure look like the easiest thing in the world.” Ellis Woodman, The Architectural Review
“We originally had a very different project, but then we stumbled on the idea of pitched roof, with geometries defined by the roof of the main school building. It seemed to make sense at once.” Joe Morris, Architect
  • Pool extension and gym refurbishment for state-funded secondary school for girls with a range of special educational needs
  • Masterplan designed for phased design programme, attracting funding from Sport England, local government and private donors
  • 24-person capacity pool
  • Prefabricated timber roof structure on a concrete retaining base
  • New building is contemporary expression of local pitched roof vernacular

Client: Alfriston School
Structural Engineer: Elliott Wood
Services/Environmental Engineer: Skelly & Couch
Timber Prefab Structure: Cowley Timberwork

Post-Occupancy Evaluation-10 years on. July 2023 "The building has exceeded the original vision...The pool is very rarely not in use, even during the holidays it’s fully let." Jinna Male - Head Teacher
Post-Occupancy Evaluation-10 years on. July 2023 "The swimming pool is constantly in use, it’s so popular it completely pays for itself and has also paid for other new buildings in the school." Jinna Male-Head Teacher
A View from the Roof Capturing the linking pitched roofs clad with timber.
@keiralexander DMA swimming session
On Site Progress Sequence A construction overview of the enabling works, foundations, the concrete base construction and the finished roof.
Jan 2014 The contractor constructing the timber valley in the roof finish.
October 2013 Prefabricated wall panel being installed on site.
October 2013 Installation of the complex wall structure geometries that were prefabricated off-site.
Sep 2013 A triangular roof panel of prefabricated timber being delivered to site.
Behind the scenes CLT joists have been cut based on a 3d digital model.
August 2013 The off-site construction of the timber wall structure.
1:1 scale model of a junction between the wall and roof structures.
Exploring Site Level Changes A visual exploring the change of level through a composition of stair, roof, glazing and base datum.
Site Overview The card model existing base provides a platform for detailed testing of the swimming pool and surrounding landscape.
Interior Studies A sequence of corner junction models explore the interior finishes for walls and the roof.
An Elevation View of the existing context model with the new swimming pool extension.
Roof and Wall Skeleton An aerial view of a timber model of the roof and wall structure cut from the 3d digital model.
Roof and Wall Skeleton A view through the timber model of the roof and wall structure cut from the 3d digital model.
Pitched Roofs The black base existing context model with the insertion of the new timber representing the proposed roof form.
Street Views Line views capturing the developing roof form.
Linking Programme with Form Early concept sketches exploring the pool and gym facilities to the rhythm and proportion of gables and pitched roofs.
Linking Programme and Form Initial concept studies investigating how gabled ends and pitched roofs frame views out to the landscape beyond.
Roof Exploration Using card models to illustrate the progression in roof form testing.
Pitched Roofs Initial sketch sections looking at how the services could be incorporated into the pitched roof form.
Synchronised Swimming Looking at an extraction of the shapes and forms created by synchronised swimmers.
Spectators and swimmers