Graves Health & Sports Centre Opens

DarntonB3 Sport & Leisure

DarntonB3 Architecture was successful in a competitive tendering process and appointed lead consultant in the design of a new leisure centre to be built alongside the existing Graves Tennis Centre. The project is unique in that it also contains the NCSEM (National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine) headquarters which is fully integrated within the leisure facilities. The client is Sheffield City Council with the NCSEM as a sub-client. Other stakeholders we managed during the design and construction stages were Sport England, the Lawn Tennis Association and British Gymnastics. DarntonB3 provided full Architectural services to Sheffield City Council on a Two Stage Design & Build contract with our appointment being through Turner & Townsend. DarntonB3 Architecture was then novated to BAM Construction Ltd for completion of RIBA Stages 5-7.


The circa £14million project comprises the following facilities:

  • 6 lane 25m community swimming
  • Learner pool with associated changing village and group change
  • 150 station fitness suite
  • 3 large flexible studios
  • Dance studio
  • 1000sqm gymnastics hall which includes for elite level trampolining
  • 2 court extension to the existing tennis centre to create 8 indoor courts in total
  • The NCSEM includes consultation rooms, ice/wax treatment, physiology and biometrics lab and an x-ray facility along with associated utility spaces

The concept for this design was to provide maximum transparency with very clear and ordered circulation whilst keeping the wet and dry facilities fully integrated with the NCSEM spaces and the existing tennis centre. Materiality was important in the design and contrasting materials were specified to provide differences in texture and finish within a natural colour palette. The double height circulation splits the three main elements of the new build section and stretches out of the building to mark a striking entrance.

The other key features are the large double height circulation hub that provides views and access to all facilities removing the need for long corridors and providing users with legible layout of facilities. The circulation hub also contains a café servery, reception space, informal pool viewing and the primary waiting area for the NCSEM.

The result was an efficient use of space from circulation to pool hall. Through our extensive knowledge of swimming pool design we created a very efficient pool hall and changing village layout that meets Sport England Guidance. We also retained large open circulation spaces that could be used for various activities such as informal meetings, waiting, café, pool viewing and NCSEM information spaces.

To reduce costs we removed the poolside platform lift and replaced this with a PoolPod which reduced the size of the pool tank and thus volume of water and running costs. We worked closely with the client to design the profiles of both pools to accurately reflect their requirements in terms of flexibility of usage and latent need. The pool hall is compact and due to budget constraints we provided the most efficient pool hall design in terms of area to meet both the clients brief and the technical requirements of Sport England.

Including the National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine brought the challenge of how to integrate what in essence was a medical facility within the leisure centre. This was overcome through sharing some of the key spaces such as the reception, studio space and the fitness suite and swimming pool. We managed to integrate the NCSEM functionally and spatially through locating the facility on the ground floor in a prominent front of house location without compromising any of the other ‘shop window’ facilities.                                                                 (Images provided by NG Bailey)