The Michael Baker Boathouse

Associated Architects’ second ten-year masterplan for King’s included rebuilding the Boathouse, which was previously a small unsightly 1950s building.  The site is a focal point in the masterplan and in the Worcester City Council / Sustrans Waterfront Project. On the line of the old city defences, it is at the edge of the historic city core which has a rich history including Roman and medieval archaeology.  The proposal to create a striking modern building was welcomed by the Council.

The existing ground floor footprint is increased by 60% to provide storage for all the School’s considerable fleet of rowing boats and sculls. The site is subject to regular flooding, so this floor’s construction is robust solid brickwork growing out from the line of the historic brick embankment.  Reflecting the elegant elongated form of the building, the new wall is built with double-length bricks.

By contrast, the lightweight upper floor floats above the retaining wall and flood plain. It provides changing, teaching and a school / community reception space with dramatic views up and down the River Severn from a new glazed and cantilevered prow.  This and the gently curving plan, following the historic defensive line, give the building a distinctive modern presence on Riverside Walk.

The upper floor overlooks the historic Creighton Memorial Gardens, previously an under-used part of the School grounds. The scheme creates a new route to the Boathouse through the Gardens, which is much more direct, wheelchair friendly, and improves security; the previous Boathouse was isolated and accessible only from outside the School grounds. A new garden terrace and windows focus views to the Worcester landmarks of the Cathedral and St Andrew’s spire.

Fine sweet chestnut timber laths cloak the upper volume, weathering down to a natural silvery-grey colour in keeping with the sensitive historic context.  Rather than running horizontally, the laths are set at a shallow angle to enhance the dynamic form of the building. The roof is traditional standing seam terne-coated stainless steel.

Sustainability has been a central consideration in the brief and design.  Solar electric and hot water roof panels meet much of the building’s energy needs in summer, and make a useful contribution in winter. The construction uses the principles of Passivhaus design, a radical German standard for very low energy design with triple glazing, super-insulation and air-tightness. These measures, coupled with a wood-pellet boiler, give environmental performance to EPC A, approaching zero carbon standard.

Client: The King’s School
Project Value: £2.4 million
Completion: 2012

Carbon Emmissions: 11kg CO2/sqm/yr


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