Tameside Wellness Centre in Denton has opened as part of the regeneration of leisure facilities and sporting provision across the Greater Manchester borough.
As well as replacing the existing swimming baths off Manchester Road, the centre is providing other complementary activities and council services, helping to educate and promote health and wellbeing in an enjoyable, fun and dynamic environment.
The aim was to provide many reasons to visit the centre in addition to its main offer of a gym, swimming pool and spa, whether it’s to attend a workshop or community meeting, to enjoy good coffee with Wi-Fi access, or to join activities across a number of multi-purpose studios.
The centre has been designed by Pozzoni Architecture to incorporate both leisure and non-leisure facilities so that, alongside typical services, visitors will find a soft play area for children, a 10-pin bowling zone, community meeting rooms and a main social space with separate areas for arts performances, a cafe and a library.
Even the roof of the centre has been designed to accommodate a sensory garden and has extra space for outdoor activities including an outdoor cinema, ensuring that more use of the building is encouraged and across a space that rarely gets used, making it much more efficient.
The wellness centre is in a prime community location in Denton, only a short walk from Crown Point North Retail Park, and is within five minutes’ walk of the town hall and public library as well as being fully accessible by foot, car, bike and public transport. It has been built on the site of the former Oldham Batteries.
One of the aims of the design was that one-off visitors would arrive at the wellness centre in one context but be encouraged by the dangling carrots of the building’s layout to consider other activities or uses too. Passers-by, meanwhile, will see activities taking place through the large expanses of windows and feel welcome and encouraged to find out more.
The exterior design of the wellness centre was also intended to be visually striking and iconic, show off and promote its facilities and services as best as possible to the town, with a vibrant and active frontage, all the while remaining open and accessible by everybody, irrespective of age, ability, gender or religion.
Combining style and function
The striking design uses local materials and building techniques in new and imaginative ways without alienating or offending, using architectural expression to celebrate and emphasise the building’s individual components.
Glazing has been imaginatively used to allow the centre’s contents to be seen without impacting negatively upon surroundings, for example, the use of north light glazing to the pool provides customers with a view of the facilities without increasing glare on the water, which would affect the experience of people in the pool as well as lifeguards around it.
High-quality materials and their colours have been carefully selected to define the structure and make the building’s approach clearly legible, establishing a sense of place and value for both customers and onlookers.
The original red-brick 20th-century Oldham Battery building set a precedent for the use of materials on the site, with key surrounding buildings in the area also using large amounts of red-brick in their construction. Neighbouring residential properties make use of red-brick facades with contrasting brick bands introduced occasionally.
The new building makes use of the robustness of bricks but with a different colour palette to contrast from the existing built environment and subtly defining what is new. The charcoal bricks are combined with the use of metallic cladding from the first floor to the roof of the building.
These materials were chosen to strike exactly the right balance to achieve the ‘iconic, striking’ building specified by the brief, while bringing harmony with the surrounding residential area, rather than imitating or overpowering it. To help achieve this balance, Pozzoni scaled the rear part of the building so that it aligns with the residential properties at the back.
Landscaping has been harnessed to continue the integrated design ideals from interior to exterior, providing plenty of space for the benefit of the surrounding area which can be enjoyed all year round. The building setting has been designed to enable access for all, with both hard and soft landscaping, while ensuring the building does not impose on its surrounding but integrates into it.
Flexibility is key
The wellness centre is not a traditional leisure centre, with facilities including a bowling alley, soft play area and other wellness opportunities for local residents.
The facility includes:
• 25m x eight-lane main pool and 17 x 10m small pool with integrated moveable floor designed to Sport England specification with 150 spectator seats to cater for local aquatic competition
• Wet-side unisex changing village and health suite, accessible from wet and dry side 10-lane 10-pin bowling centre
• 60-station fitness suite including three flexible exercise studios
• 100m2 community room/multi-use area
• 130m2 double-height soft play area and associated seating
• Flexible community room to cater for meetings, creche and children’s parties
• Central public social interactive space, incorporating concierge reception, catering servery and seating for 100 covers, integrated library
• Four flexible rooms which can be used for parties, GP referral, meetings, etc.
Having been designed with flexibility in use as one of its key drivers, the building and its spaces within have been created in such a way that they can be used for a multitude of activities. Moveable walls, adaptive fixtures and shared-use areas have been incorporated to allow the building to grow and adapt to its customers and incorporate uses which best serve the changing needs of the community.
At the heart of the centre is the multi-purpose social interactive space, which shares several uses that otherwise may have been taken up by a series of less flexible separate rooms. The main space challenges the preconceived idea of a library, cafe, pool viewing and reception area, opening it up into one vibrant and engaging space where people can enjoy watching the many activities going on while enjoying food and drink and something to read.
A community hub
This idea of flexibility in use extends into the community, meeting and consulting rooms which can be used for anything from a local support group or a child’s birthday party, to a nurse’s drop-in centre or as formal meeting spaces for local businesses.
The first floor uses flexibility in design to provide studio spaces which can be used independently or as one combined space, while a separate smaller studio space has been included to the fitness suite in order to provide more focused classes or to be incorporated into the main suite.
The wellness centre has been designed to integrate several local services to provide a more holistic approach to wellness. The centre aims to make wellness and the health agenda more readily and easily available without the need for separate facilities situated in numerous locations.
Customers and local residents will be able to make use of the centre for recreation while also improving their health and wellbeing naturally alongside other facilities provided by the NHS and local authority alike.
The total cost of the wellness centre build came in at £11.5m, which represents incredible value for money – a project of this scale and quality could reasonably be expected to cost at least an additional £5m. This is testament to the entire design team and the contractor Willmott Dixon who understood the vision, bringing challenges in certain areas while keeping within the client’s specified budget.
While its original launch in March 2020 was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that it had to close after two weeks, the building still fulfilled its community purpose during the UK’s lockdown periods by acting as a distribution centre for much-needed supplies. It reopened in summer 2021.
Martin Bransby, Director of the Leisure Sector at Pozzoni, said: “From start to finish, this has been an incredibly exciting brief to work on. It’s been a pleasure to design a building that celebrates wellbeing and openly invites the local community to discover what it has to offer, serving both an important function and also offering flexibility in use for those who live and work in Tameside.”