Our experience of place is intrinsically linked to the memories we hold. In the case of places that are dear to our hearts, be this as a key part of everyday life or a cherished childhood memory, it is often difficult to explain what it is that makes it feel so special. For Penzance, it is often said, it is the connection to the sea.
Perhaps this is why the Jubilee Pool holds such a special place in the hearts of so many, not only within the local community but across the UK. When something is so deeply embedded and loved by a community, it is often considered more like a family member, making their loss more tragic and revival all the more jubilant.
Located on a rocky outcrop, jutting out into the North Atlantic, the Jubilee Pool is the largest of only five surviving sea water lidos in the UK, and an important part of the built and social fabric of Penzance. Greatly loved by locals and visitors alike, the triangular shaped pool has an interesting history which reflects
the prosperity (or otherwise) of the town. In 2017 ScottWhitbyStudio were asked to consider proposals for safeguarding the future of the Grade II listed pool by providing year round facilities for the people of Penzance, capitalising on geothermal energy to create the UK’s only heated sea water pool.
Often described as one of the jewels in Penzance’s crown, the iconic art deco pool opened in 1935, to celebrate King George V’s Silver Jubilee at a time when the town was one of the country’s premier holiday resorts. After being battered by years of Atlantic storms, the pool had fallen into a state of disrepair and variously threatened with closure. Many of the local residents were distraught over the potential loss of what was once the pride of their town. It was thanks to the resolve and passion of the local people, that the Pool was not only saved, but the new geothermal pool and community facilities were able to be built and allow the pool to be open all year round - acting as a catalyst for the regeneration of this incredible town.
In 2014-15, the Friends of the Jubilee Pool, a Charity set up to bring the pool out of disrepair, purchased the pool. Once the pool was in community ownership, in 2018, another £1.8million was raised through significant investment from Cornwall council, Penzance town council and EU funding. But perhaps most significantly, £600,000 of this came from community share offer, further highlighting the importance of the pool at the heart of the community. The project, of which the first phase was completed in 2019, is now fully operational as a year- round community hub.
Our objective was to create a space that feels at home in the community and is fundamentally for the people of Penzance - a gift back to the people that saved it. The approach was to retain existing listed structures where possible, infilling between them in a modern interpretation of the low sweeping art deco design. From the poolside the design and material choices relate to and enhance the nautical characteristics of its context. The existing structures were updated to provide a robust defence against the aggressive sea-front conditions and two main volumes were created - an enlarged café and a new multi-purpose community hall, both opening directly onto a new public promenade. The Geothermal Pool utilises a geothermal well sunk down 410m to heat the water and maintain temperature with a very low carbon footprint.
The sculpted roof that covers the length of the development references the forms of the pool itself and transitions from gentle undulations facing the street to strong horizontal lines facing the pool, resonating with the poolside condition. From the promenade the silhouette of the rippling roof reflects the movement of water within the pool and creates a dialogue with the scalloped walls of the churchyard opposite. The roof celebrates the special light condition of the Penwith peninsula, bringing North light in and creating a shaded area to the South. As the roof is pulled up to allow North light into the space, visual connections are created between those at the level of the promenade and passers by at street level.
The new architectural interventions by ScottWhitbyStudio consciously take a back seat to the existing art deco, grade II listed structure, offering new visitor facilities that hope to enable year-round activity for a previously seasonal attraction and by doing so encouraging new and sustainable economic activity for the town. In doing so, it is hoped that the pool may enjoy another long and prosperous lease of life.
Architect: ScottWhitbyStudio (Project Team: Alex Scott-Whitby, Osman Marfo-Gyasi, Mary Tyulkanova, Neil Broadbent, Cherng-Min Teong, Jaahid Ahmad, Ada Keco, Kirk Slankard)
QS (RIBA Stage 2): PT Projects
Structural Engineer: WebbYates Engineers
Conservation/Heritage: ScottWhitby Studio
Services Engineer: WebbYates Engineers
Project Manager/QS: Fox Cornwall
Main Contractor: Catling Construction
Joinery: A1 Construction Penzance
Polyurea Roofing: ESW
Fibreglass Cladding: Stuart Pease (Fibreglass Ltd)
Geothermal Engineering: GEON - GEL Geothermal Engineering Limited/Arup