Stanton Williams provides a community hub in Hackney centred around football
Hackney Marshes is best known as the London home of amateur Sunday League football. However, by the turn of the century, the facilities provided for the hundreds of players and supporters were in need of urgent overhaul. The London Borough of Hackney’s initial brief requirements sought a piece of high quality architecture that would acknowledge the unique character of the site, which would instil a sense of pride and ownership, and increase participation in sport.
Completed in autumn 2010, the new ‘Community Hub’ at the South Marsh, comprises new changing rooms, a café, and an education facility. They are housed in a welcoming, inclusive structure that 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.
Designed to achieve a BREEAM rating of ‘Very Good’, sustainable features include an indigenous green roof that complements the local ecosystem, rainwater harvesting facilities and biomass boilers. The changing rooms and community spaces are designed for maximum flexibility - one of the key aspects of sustainable design that ensures a long lifespan for Hackney Marshes Centre with adaptability for multiple and future uses. The initial idea of the Hackney Marshes Centre becoming a shared community facility for those using the Marshes for different activities has become a reality, bringing together various groups and individuals under one roof.