The Source – BMX and Skateboard Park in Hastings by Saville Jones Architects

published in sb 6/2016

From the bathtub onto the ramp

The challenge of reopening the former health spa to the general public and changing its use to a very active kinetic activity, incorporating a fluid series of ramps and bowls, was an exercise in sympathetic adaptation, controlling water ingress and project management, all undertaken by Saville Jones Consultants.

White Rock Baths were originally constructed in about 1870 as a health spa. The 1930’s reconstruction in the Modern style did not completely obliterate some of the earlier Victorian fabric, although mostly it was concealed.

The building operated as a swimming complex until 1978, when it was closed and converted into a roller-skating and ice-skating venue. However the whole complex was finally closed in 1997 and has not been used since.

Destined to be consigned to history

The building is unique because of its seafront location, being underground and its early use of reinforced concrete. Many of the floors and walls are lined with terrazzo, which have been retained in part. Unused for over 17 years, the building fabric had deteriorated because of the corrosive nature of the original swimming pool use, the seafront location and water ingress.

Essential repairs to the very early reinforced concrete structure were required. All repairs and additions were treated in a manner sympathetic to its heritage and design, but in an industrial manner that did not seek to hide the repairs.

The design philosophy built on the ideas of urban archaeology allowing visitors to journey through the building and discover the hidden spaces and facilities. The GBP 1.25m project was part-funded by the local borough and county councils, along with the Regional Growth Fund. The council cannot guarantee the fabric of the building for long, so the tenant signed a 10-year lease.

The world’s largest subterranean skatepark

The old large pool hall now houses the Main Skate Park. Designed, engineered and installed by 9C Solutions, it is a unique example of ridable and skatable architecture. The ramps, equally suitable for BMX, skateboard, inline and scooters, are sunk into the former main pool tank. The original 360-degree gallery allows an unprecedented viewpoint on the riding and skating below, providing capacity for 600 spectators and also housing the Source Park Café.

To maximise the available volume for riding and skating use, the former ice-rink false floor was removed and reinstated at the base of the pool tank. This enabled much of the deck areas to be pushed outwards, beneath the viewing gallery, so increasing the ridable areas but also keeping the main area free from visual obstruction. The clear height gained, the boundaries of which professional riders come near, was also essential functionally.

The park includes a mixture of transition and street features and the large bowl extends the full depth from the base of the pool tank to the viewing gallery. The space is designed such that the entire park can be ridden or skated as one when quiet or for events, but then passively subdivided during busy times. The park now hosts an annual international BMX event, ‘The Battle of Hastings’, in addition to open sessions, coaching, film screenings and birthday parties.

Beginners’ facility in former ladies’ pool hall

On the east side of the building, the original smaller teaching pool now contains a plaza and foam-pit. This park is only accessible via a double door from the open courtyard, and so numbers of occupants are limited. A previous reinforced concrete vault ceiling was removed to gain height and a false floor installed to cover the remains of a 1970’s concrete skating structure.

Centrally located and central to the viable business plan is the retail area. Located in what was originally the lounge/smoking room, the shop sells BMX and skateboarding goods and acts as the offices and mail-order hub for the entire Source’s international business. Original roof lights were replaced with mock lanterns due to the lack of funding but the ambience remains the same.