Mineral tiles and canopies score hat-trick in £2 million redevelopment of a leisure centre

Armstrong Ceilings’ products were specified by architects Arkon Associates for Woking Leisure Centre, operated by freedom leisure in partnership with Woking Borough Council, in Surrey due to their three As – aesthetics, acoustics and accessibility.

Sixteen 1800mm x 1200mm Optima rectangle canopies take pride of place in the free weights and weights machines area of the new gym and are complemented by 365m² of Perla OP 0.95 (the first mineral tile in the world to gain Silver Cradle to Cradle certification) in the gym.

In addition, some 230m² of Ultima MicroLook tiles were installed by specialist sub-contractors Gypsum Plasterers for main contractor Morgan Sindall in the new café, together with 500m² of Dune Max Tegular tiles in the studios, stairwells and corridors.

The six-month project involved the redevelopment of Woking Borough Council’s 1960s concrete-framed leisure centre to make it more accessible and enjoyable for all types of customers to use. This focussed on the refurbishment of the reception with turnstiles and café and the installation of a new mezzanine floor over the gym to provide two first-floor studios.

Arkon brought their leisure centre expertise, realised with Armstrong Ceilings at Southgate and Albany, Bromley Pavilion and Pype Hayes Golf Club, to the reconfiguration of Woking Leisure Centre.

Arkon interior designer Gustavo De Macedo said: “The intent was to provide the best possible quality facility while remaining affordable to all. Good design and planning, with robust and attractive materials inside and out, were a means to achieving this, and the Armstrong products certainly enhanced the design.”

The scheme proposals were contained within the envelope of the existing building, with additional space added by the introduction of a mezzanine floor in the existing two-storey practice hall. The entrance counter is now linked to a café providing food and drink to a seating area in the foyer.

From there, users pass through the existing concourse and either go to the existing changing rooms or to the new gym which runs from an existing function suite into the practice hall and provides 140 exercise stations.

At second floor level, there are two new studios and the existing free weight room is converted to a spin studio.

Mr De Macedo added: “Within the gym area we had to work with a reduced ceiling height due to the installation of the mezzanine floor and to maximise the feeling of height within the space we decided to box out the existing downstand beams and raise the Perla suspended ceiling height between them. Then in the free weights and weights machines zones, the Optima rectangle canopies provided elegant floating ceiling panels, allowing zones for exposed services installation. The panel also assists with controlling the acoustics within the gym.”

Arkon director Ian Connew added: “As a practice we have utilised Armstrong products in numerous schemes and they have performed well, creating spaces with clean lines and delivering the qualities required in specific environments. At Woking, the greatest challenge was to maintain the existing leisure centre in use while undertaking the works. This was particularly critical in the reception area.”

David Wilson of Gypsum Plasterers, who had a team of eight to 10 men on site at any one time for four months, said: “The Armstrong products were fantastic.”