King's Cross Baths

Jack Jarrett Architects

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This competition entry for a new swimming, hydrotherapy and spa complex near King’s Cross Station sought to reconnect a site fractured by railways and waterways.

The building celebrates a diver’s theatrical entrance into water, sinking the main pools beneath the pavement level to allow pedestrians to witness the tense moment before the dive down. This moment of drama and tension is articulated through a chamfered tower, rising above the adjacent railways and up into the London sky. A succession of stacked pools circle around a driven oculus to create a series of spa pools of unique identity, but also begins to generate a novel environmental strategy.

Swimming pools typically use the same energy requirements as a village; stack effect draws hot air through the pools, with a passive thermal exchange minimising heat loss. An oculus provides 600lx poolside, while strip windows run adjacent to the swimming lanes, illuminate them without providing any obscuring glare and allowing swimmers to glide alongside trains.

Exposed thermal mass not only serves as a heat store but also creates a luxuriating ambience, helping visitors rediscover the ancient benefits of bathing. The combinations of exposed and enclosed spaces, light and shade, provides a highly sensuous and restorative experience.


Location: King's Cross, London

Status: Competition entry (2009)