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University of Cambridge Sports Centre, Cambridge

An elite sports facility designed to be accessible to all

The new Sports Centre at the University of Cambridge is designed as a home to athletes who compete at the highest levels, but it is also open to the wider community. The building provides accessible and affordable facilities to the general public – supporting a thriving group of local clubs for all abilities and disabilities. 

Arup designed the 6,000m2 sports facility, which includes an eight court sports hall, multipurpose halls for dance and martial arts, squash courts, a fitness suite, weights room, and fives courts. A 50 metre swimming pool and a tennis hall are to be delivered in future stages. All internal spaces are naturally day-lit and ventilated to promote health and wellbeing. The project achieved a BREEAM “Excellent” accreditation.

The architectural form responds to the building’s location, at the interface of the city and agricultural land. A colonnade of timber fins clads the entrance façade to the north making for a striking approach, and creating a landmark destination for students, university staff, and the public. At the southern side, the fall of the domed roof meets the tree line, minimising the building’s visual impact and creating a sensitive response to its rural surroundings.

Project Summary

200 photovoltaic roof panels

6,000of internal sports facilities

36-meter-wide roof span

University of Cambridge Sports Centre. Credit: Simon Kennedy University of Cambridge Sports Centre. Credit: Simon Kennedy

Multi-disciplinary roof design

To achieve an open-plan space that would be flexible enough to adapt to different sporting activities, the centre’s dome like roof spans over 36 meters.  Its complex geometry is the result of close collaboration between the projects architectural and structural teams.  By reducing the height and mass to achieve the optimum balance between height requirements for different sports, the planning considerations on the edge of Green Belt, and structural efficiency.


© Simon Kennedy

Natural Ventilation

The roof is punctuated by a rhythmic gill structure of north lights, mechanically operated and louvered to allow light and fresh air filter into the main hall.  This design passively reduces the building’s reliance on electricity, creates a healthy environment for visitors and maintains comfort parameters to Sport England standards throughout the year.   Additionally, the protruding north lights support 200 photovoltaic panels on their south facing facades which help generate the building’s hot water.

This is a key project for the University…This state-of the-art design marks the start of a new era for Cambridge sport. ” Sir Lezzek Borysiwicz University Chancellor

Acoustic Performance

Acoustic performance was also a priority as the hall is also used as a venue for written examinations. Since the large volume of the space makes any surface a potential source of echo, the conditions called for a careful application of sound absorbent treatments. The solution was to use a mix of acoustic panelling positioned on low-level wall surfaces close to the floor and a lining of sound absorbent infill on the roof deck.

Inclusive environment

Creating an environment accessible to all users was one of the critical aspects of the design brief. Our accessible design team informed the sports centre’s design to ensure that all mobility, sensory and cognitive requirements were considered.  With the multipurpose hall on the ground floor available for use by wheelchair teams, the design needed to be able to accommodate many sports wheelchairs at one time.  A ‘Sports Wheelchair Zone’ was created to connect the entrance foyer to the hall via the main corridor, with wider corridor and door widths accommodating the larger sports wheelchairs.  Designated, secure areas were provided for sports wheelchairs in the hall, for use while the athlete is changing, and to store ‘day wheelchairs’ during a game or event.

University of Cambridge Sports Centre. Credit: Simon Kennedy University of Cambridge Sports Centre. Credit: Simon Kennedy

All internal spaces are naturally day-lit and ventilated to promote health and wellbeing and the project achieved BREEAM “Excellent” accreditation. © Simon Kennedy