In 2014, the municipality of Yverdon-les-Bains in the Swiss region of Vaud, announced an open international architectural competition. The competition was to replace an early-twentieth-century gym in the centre of the town which was structurally compromised due to subsidence of the foundations.
The building to be replaced, while independent, was also used by a nearby primary school, and by various sporting clubs and societies outside of school hours.
The program for the new building included a new gym, new spaces for rhythmic gymnastics, changing rooms and services for the activities of both the school and the sporting clubs.
The project was won in 2014, developed in the subsequent years and finally completed in the summer of 2020.
The desire to create harmony between the new building and its valuable historical
context formed the basis of the spatial development: establishing relationships with the surrounding buildings through proportion, height and alignment. The building was to be situated on the grounds of the pre-existing gym to be demolished.
The new building consists of a simple box brought to life by two features: the volume of the main gymnasium that emerges from the base, and the void that clearly defines the entrance.
The presence of the castle fascinates, seduces and inspires. The massive stone walls and towers, surmounted by light wooden structures, and the correspondence between form and structure are the inspiration for the basic concept of the project: a mineral base in reinforced concrete on which a wooden volume is set. This solution seeks to be contemporary yet simultaneously timeless: discreet and elegant without disrupting the harmony of the historical context.
The project is organised in an orderly manner within the compact space with the two rhythmic gymnastics rooms on the ground floor arranged so that they can be connected and also in order to generate a single passage opening on to the Castle square.
This space, which embraces the entire width of the building, intensifies the internal / external visual impact, reflecting the public character of the building. This is further emphasised by the large window of the gym on the first floor, which also faces the Castle.
The two floors of the building are completed with changing rooms, showers, and storage rooms for sports equipment, the teachers' room and the electrical substation serving the city centre.
The structure of the building follows the architectural concept. All the facades are made of white exposed reinforced concrete and operating like wall beams to support the reinforced concrete ceiling beams, which are themselves cast in place above the gymnastic classrooms.
Inside, too, all the main load-bearing walls are in reinforced concrete, left exposed. The large gym is instead made entirely of timber: both the structure and the external and internal cladding.
This difference is also intended to enhance the perception of the space by its users: stimulating and animating the contrasts between the spaces. The circulation spaces have neutral colours.
The development of the relationship between the building and its context also considers the positioning of the openings, which are carefully arranged to align with, and provide views of, significant elements in the surroundings.
The gym is illuminated on short winter days, and its extensive floor-to-ceiling glass-panelled wall transforms the building into a beacon, a landmark for the city centre and for Yverdon-les-Bains.
The building’s approach is centered on sustainable development using timber structures and cladding for the entire space of the first-floor gym. This sustainable approach also informs the plant engineering with heating guaranteed by heat pump systems integrated with photovoltaic and thermal solar panels on the pitch of the south-facing roof. A small emergency boiler can supplement the heating on particularly cold days. There is no air-conditioning system.
The quality of the spaces and finishes, the respect for the historical context, the possibility for the community to recognise themselves in a building of contemporary architecture, stimulate a use consistent with the ethical values of sport. The values of respect for the common good and attention in the design and construction of the sports spaces are perceived directly by users. This then translates into respect for other competitors, fairness and social-cooperation. Consequently this results in a greater predisposition to sociability and enjoyment, an increased drive for improvement, and widespread physical and psychological well-being.