The concept of a national Sports Performance Centre was developed as a result of the McLeish report into Scottish Football. Its aim is to provide Scotland’s top sportspeople with the facilities, access and support services pivotal for international success. In 2012 the Scottish Government committed £25 million of funding and organisations were invited to bid to host and operate the centre. Heriot-Watt University, in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, employed Reiach and Hall to produce the designs to accompany their bid to create a world class performance facility that will also provide extensive access for the local community.
The centre will comprise a full size indoor synthetic pitch, full size outdoor synthetic pitch, nine court sports hall, five outdoor grass football and two grass rugby pitches. It will also include a hydrotherapy suite, eight squash courts, two exercise studios, a four court sports hall and 60x40 indoor synthetic pitch, which can be booked as a whole or in sections. The centre will also contain world class facilities for sports science and medicine, a fitness suite, as well as conferencing, changing facilities and a café.
The indoor pitch, which is the biggest facility of its type in Europe, has a playing height of 28m in the centre and 15m on the side lines. The pitch also boasts a 500 person viewing gallery as well as a comprehensive performance analysis system.
The very large new building is connected to two existing sports centre buildings and integrates an existing, listed Victorian walled garden into the project.
The project is under construction, on programme and budget and due for completion in August 2016.
Concept/Architecture: Architecture must be imagined before it can be constructed, but it is public institutions, governments, councils and universities who really shape our environment – because they create the need for architecture and hopefully choose architects that can create magical spaces.
Vision: Our design process started with the simple idea of a fairytale: where a child in the woods finds a magical building, unlike anything they’ve seen before, a place where amazing things will happen, a place of dreams.
The sports people we remember best aren’t necessarily the most technically proficient or the ones who worked hardest: Before the 2013 Champions League final, The Borussia Dortmund Manager, Jurgen Klopp was asked: "What is the most important quality you look for in a player?" He replied; "character."
Alex Fergusson once said about Ryan Giggs, "I remember the first time I saw him. He was 13 and just floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind." – a poetic and memorable image.
The need for a poetic and memorable image is apposite to this project – some buildings just need to be technically proficient – they don’t need to stand out from the crowd – mass housing, factories in boxy industrial sheds on the edge of town are examples. But other buildings have a culturally important role and need a memorable identity. The National Performance Centre is a once in a lifetime, culturally important opportunity. This isn’t a half chance, this is a penalty shootout, it’s a free kick on the edge of the box - a chance to realise something truly amazing.
Roberto Carlos’ Free Kick: In Sept. 2, 2010 the New Journal of Physics published an article by French scientists about Roberto Carlos’ magical free kick against France in the 1997 Confederations cup. The article showed that because Carlos kicked the ball hard enough over a long enough distance with enough spin, its trajectory followed the path of an equiangular spiral.
We took that spiral curve and used it as the basis for the design of the profile of the roof over the football hall. The profile gives the Edinburgh design a distinct and memorable form, as well as a great story to accompany it (that the media and the public will enjoy).
We want people to come into the hall and feel that same rush of emotion that you feel when you enter a football ground, go up the steps to the back of the stand, just before kickoff and the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end – you get a shiver of excitement. That’s the kind of atmosphere we want to create. This needs to be a thrilling and memorable place.
Organisation and Clarity of Plan: The design has a very simple diagram. Two routes run east west through the building – a main public route to the north and an elite route to the south, which allows the elite area to operate autonomously. The routes through the building continue out towards the pitches, again the more elite pitches to the south and the more public pitches, closer to the University, to the north.
Summary: We want this place to generate a magnetic pull on sports men and women, not just because of the services on offer - but because it will have an atmosphere that people will enjoy using. They’ll want to come here, again and again.