The £9m centre provides visitors with a range of new facilities including a 220m² neighbourhood library – the only one in the area, two swimming pools and a health and fitness suite.
AHR designed the centre to cater specifically to the diverse community of Levenshulme. One of the design features that helps achieve this is having a private-user pool that can be separated from the main pool by a glazed partition, allowing it to be used for specific needs such as women-only events for particular ethnic and religious groups.
AHR designed the centre for both the local community and for groups from across Manchester where privacy is of a particular concern. To facilitate this, both pools are capable of operating independently.
In normal operation the pools are visually open to each other with a single changing village, whilst in dual mode the changing village is subdivided and the pools screened off from each other. This allows open public and private-user groups to use the building simultaneously, maximising efficiency and building usage.
The library is open for the same hours as the leisure centre, through the introduction of a joint reception and offers free access to Wi-Fi and 20 public PCs. It provides the local community with an adaptable facility that uses modular shelving to ensure flexibility in the space and enables the local authority to deliver a range of services, including children’s activities. There is also a staff information point, study area, two self-service issue/return terminals and office and meeting facilities.
First floor facilities include a 264m² health and fitness suite, equipped with 60 stations, and an adjoining 100m² studio that can hold community meetings and serve as a dance studio for 30 people.
Dan Barnes, Regional Director at AHR, said: “Our aim was to design an outward-facing and open facility that meets the specific needs of the local community and in turn encourages people who might not otherwise have used the leisure or library services to engage. The Arcadia Centre is proving extremely popular with local residents. We hope that it will prove to be a valuable community asset for years to come.”
An important part of the design brief was that the centre is highly visible from the busy Stockport Road. AHR achieved this by locating the library at the front of the ground floor and the fitness suite on the first floor facing the main road, maintaining high visibility with extensive glazing. A series of double height glass feature panels provide contrast to the neutral brickwork and glazing to further animate the facade and wrap into a covered recessed space, marking the entrance.
The building is primarily clad in traditional brickwork in keeping with the local context and references the predominant slate roofs across Levenshulme.
AHR has an impressive track record in designing leisure facilities that cater to the needs of diverse local communities and encourage people, even those who have never previously used their local facilities, to participate and be more active.
To date, along with Arcadia Leisure Centre, AHR has delivered East Manchester, Huddersfield and Hough End centres with Fleming Park Leisure Centre having recently started work on site. AHR has also completed Manchester Institute of Health and Performance (MIHP). This project provides state-of-the-art facilities for elite athletes to drive ground-breaking research and education programmes with a global relevance. With all the projects, whether aimed at the local community or elite athletes, AHR has applied the principles of inclusion, flexibility and accessibility to design buildings that are ideally suited to their unique users.
All the completed leisure centres have been well-received by both the local communities and the local authorities, with centres seeing record attendance levels and increasing numbers of new members signing up; Huddersfield Leisure Centre had 165,000 visitors in the first two months of being open and1700 members signed up on the launch of Hough End. Public swimming lessons at Hough End are also at capacity with over 600 school swimmers registered.
Dominic Manfredi, Director at AHR, said: “We design sport and wellbeing environments to be inclusive spaces for everyone. From kids taking their first swimming lessons to elite athletes on the road to Rio, the availability of quality facilities is really important. We are proud to help people enjoy sport and keep active.”