The centre provides permanent facilities for local, national and international rowing activities organized by the Royal Albert Dock Trust. The site is located at the north western corner of the Royal Albert Dock adjacent to the finishing line of the newly extended 2000 metre long rowing course, providing London and the southeast of England with its first Olympic standard rowing facility. The centre provides is an educational centre for the London Borough of Newham, and for disabled athletes.
In response to the shape of the site it has been conceived and planned as two separate buildings: a Boathouse with ancillary workshop space, and a Clubhouse which includes changing rooms, gym, restaurant and bar facilities, as well as short term residential accommodation for visiting athletes. The Clubhouse also has a unique rowing tank developed with Arup from a 1:5 scale hydraulic model with pumped water to simulate real open water rowing. The Clubhouse is designed to act as a focus for community activities in the area.
The design strategy responds to the large scale of the water landscape by creating a visually robust intervention and with a strong presence. We organised the design within parallel lines of gabion walls – a construction technique more often associated with civil engineering than architecture, but pioneered in architecture by our office in 1992 at Terrasson, in France.
In this scheme the walls are used to define spaces within which the buildings can nest and create landscape statements in their own right. In the case of the boathouse, the building is defined only by the free standing gabion walls and a lightweight stiffened catenary stainless steel sheet roof.
The Clubhouse building sits back from the north-side gabion wall to create an access buffer zone spine running the length of the building. Terraces on the second level sail over the gabion to the south to provide viewing areas from the bar and restaurant of racing events and the take off and landing of aircraft at London City.
Completed in March 2000.