Heta was approached by Squash Plus, a new company pioneering the development of outdoor courts, with an intriguing brief to create a new sports facility typology: an outdoor pavilion that can accommodate innovative squash courts to showcase the incredible visual spectacle of the sport.
- Category: Architecture
- Client: Squash Plus
- Location: Europe
- Collaborators: Elliot Wood Engineers / Gleeds (Cost Consultant)
- Status: Active
A New Vision for the Sport
Squash Plus has a vision to raise the profile of the sport and make squash accessible to more people, specifically to children. One of the founders, James Sandwith, had already carried out a strategic review for the World Squash Federation which identified a number of initiatives to raise the sport’s profile and reverse the declining participation. At the centre of squash’s problems is the perception that many facilities are plain, uninspiring places and often poorly maintained. The dynamism of the game is not reflected in the places where it is played. The logical next step is rising to the challenge of developing an innovative concept to solve these problems – the Squash Plus Heta Pavilion.
Squash requires speed, fast reactions, agility, and strength. As such professional players are hailed as incredible athletes. The explosive movement required to stretch, lunge, jump and change direction is a test of human limits and makes for a wonderful visual spectacle. At an amateur and social level, it is an active, energetic game, making it an enjoyable social activity with friends.
During the pandemic, the sport’s reputation suffered - and what was until recently thought of as one of the world’s healthiest sports became increasingly perceived as a high-risk activity. Our challenge is to transform the image of squash courts and make them attractive in a post-pandemic era.
COVID and the restrictions it has imposed on sport - particularly indoor sport - means that now is the perfect time for court innovation. The sport needs to change, it needs to emerge from underground corners of poorly designed or maintained leisure facilities, and squash communities need to be reinvigorated after a year of closure. Taking the sport outside is a wonderful way to solve these problems. The sport will thrive once again.
The design of the courts is tailored to professional players where performance is critical. This simple, elegant, and playful structure is intended to showcase the spectacle of the sport. We hope it will open up wider conversations about the future of outdoor squash.
Pushing Material Boundaries Through Design
Squash has seen technological advancements in the evolution of racquet design from wood to graphite with refinement in the pursuit of lightness and rigidity. Within our design process, we explored architectural possibilities for efficient structures which express lightness and delicacy. The sports pavilion archetype put us in mind of simple, playful, and elegant structures, often situated adjacent to playing fields or parks.
In collaboration with Elliott Wood Engineers, we searched for a design solution which could achieve a large span and efficient use of the structural properties of each material. The lightweight roof is supported by timber inverted bow trusses to achieve the desired span without compromising views of the court. This modular system creates an open, transparent structure which gives the building its identity and references the technological advancements in racquet design. It can be configured to different modes of use, including training camps, tournaments, or high-level events. The system is scalable, allowing for a single exhibition court or multiple courts, configured to various arrangements and orientations with supporting facilities.
The pavilion is designed to be energy efficient and environmentally discreet. A hybrid system of timber, steel and concrete allows efficient use of the structural properties of each material and uses less carbon than an equivalent steel structure. Fixed horizontal louvres give protection from direct light and help maintain a thermally controlled environment. Low-energy air-intake is via concealed vents below the tin line and automated opening vents (AOV) systems are activated with temperature and humidity sensors.
Solar PV cells on the roof generate renewable electricity while active flooring transforms footfall on the court into clean electricity and data for feedback analysis. The courts will integrate the latest digital technology for a state-of-the-art training facility including video tracking & analysis and LED visualisation technology.
A Showcase for the Sport
For major tournaments, temporary open-air courts and raked seating are often erected in open spaces, galleria or iconic locations. This is a strong reminder of the glorious experience that top-class squash generates when the glass court is set up in such iconic locations, providing a strong precedent for outdoor squash courts.
Our courts are designed with spectator viewing in mind. On approach the ground plane steps down to form a natural amphitheatre, drawing people in and providing visual impact, with four-sided glass walls using non-reflecting glass, minimum external structures, and precise artificial lighting, which combine to provide an exemplary user experience for both spectators and players.
For more information please visit: https://www.squashplus.uk/