Britannia Leisure Centre

London, UK

Situated within an ambitious regeneration scheme in Shoreditch, the Britannia Leisure Centre will be a flagship development at the heart of the local community. Representing a significant investment by Hackney Council, the centre will offer high quality facilities and an abundance of activity programmes to create a welcoming and conducive space for everyone to enjoy.


Working on a constrained inner-city site poses challenges at the best of times, and in London these are magnified. Physical hurdles on this project included the need to build over an existing storm relief sewer, which meant we had to meet development requirements set out by Thames Water. Such issues are bread and butter work for our engineers, however, and we quickly overcame them by incorporating designated exclusion zones and intelligent foundation solutions into our groundwork plans.

By far the greatest challenge of all came in having to, quite literally, turn the traditional leisure centre layout on its head. Instead of engineering a long, low-level building, we were tasked with realising a multi-storey design that would allow for various sports facilities to be stacked on top of one another.

The primary reason that single-storey design is favoured for most leisure centres is because it enables large, open plan spaces to be realised without vibrations from differing activities impinging on one another across the building. When you try to create activity spaces in a multi-storey structure, rhythmic, coordinated exercises like Zumba and spinning can make the building bounce, causing vibrations that reverberate through the floors and disrupt other activities.

Britannia Leisure Centre  in London
We wrote our own computational design script to carry out the complex analysis required to realise this unique multi-storey leisure centre. Image: FaulknerBrowns


Because re-imaging the standard sports centre layout was unprecedented, no tools existed that allowed us to design in such a revolutionary way. So, we made our own. We wrote a new script to create footfall software that enabled us to carry out the specific analysis required for this project. This script allowed us to both predict the vibrations that will occur as a result of various activities, and locate ‘people’ throughout the building so that simultaneous group activities could be captured and modelled in a 3D environment.

We were then able to display the results of this analysis graphically to fully interrogate various design options, and demonstrate the efficacy of our solutions to the wider project team. This enabled us to develop a structural design capable of realising the long span areas required within a multi-storey layout.

Carrying out such complex analysis was essential for negating inter-floor vibration, and for space planning and building efficiency. As a result, the final design for the centre situates the swimming pools at ground level, with sports halls, fitness suites and dance studios above. This is all topped off with tennis courts and five-a-side football pitches on the roof.

Britannia Leisure Centre  in London
Our structural design allows for long-span areas to be created while also negating unwanted inter-floor vibration. Image: FaulknerBrowns


When complete, Britannia Leisure Centre will provide an inviting social hub for the whole community. Large amounts of glazing create a transparent environment that allows people within the building to look out across Shoreditch Park, while those passing by can see what is happening inside. This ensures the centre stands as a beacon of entertainment and relaxation for the whole community to enjoy – whether you are inside or out.

From a wider perspective, Buro Happold projects never stand in isolation. We have already used the script we developed for the Britannia Leisure Centre across other projects, enabling dynamic design checks to be made for the first time. Applying our ingenuity in this way results in a faster and more accurate design process, which has the knock-on effect of saving time and money for our clients.

Our work also informed building layout and space planning, with swimming pools located at ground level, fitness studios above, and five-a-side pitches on the roof. Image: FaulknerBrowns
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