The Finsbury Centre

A RIBA Competition winning design to masterplan the Finsbury Leisure Centre site. The development will provide a leisure, health and nursery centre, an energy centre, sports hall including four football pitches, a new public square, and 121 new homes. As the site currently contains four heavily used sports pitches, the development will be built in phases to allow the pitches to be transferred from their current location to the new with minimal disruption to their ongoing use.

The main residential building forms a C-shaped structure, seven-storeys at its highest. A reinforced concrete (RC) frame with flat slabs suits the proposed geometry and massing of the building. The foundation scheme is piled, and due to the presence of a live Thames Water sewer beneath this part of the site, a series of cantilevered pile caps avoid entering the exclusion zone or loading the sewer.

The leisure, health and nursery centre will be constructed using a composite steel frame with metal deck slabs to the upper floors with an in-situ RC frame to lower floors and basement which suits the regular grid of the room layouts, and exposed concrete columns at ground floor. The roof level frame reverts to steel as the spans become much longer, creating open-plan spaces within the nursery. The building is located adjacent to the sports hall and shares a copper-clad sawtooth wall along one elevation which is visible from the surrounding streets.

The sports hall is a steel frame with complex geometry to form a two-storey high column free space at first floor level. The sports hall houses two sports pitches and so requires a clear span of 36m. A series of 3m deep Warren trusses have been used to achieve the column free space, providing an efficient structural solution. The remaining sports pitches will be located beneath the sports hall, and adjacent to it within the courtyard space created by each block.

The energy centre will house heavy plant equipment including a thermal store that weighs in excess of 130 tonnes and therefore suits a concrete superstructure.

Each block uses piled foundations, except for where a single-storey basement has been added beneath part of the footprint of the energy centre and the leisure, health and nursery centre. Here, a piled wall will be used around the perimeter.

One major constraint for the foundation and basement design is a UKPN tunnel which crosses a corner of the site, approximately 17m below ground level with a diameter of approximately 3m. In addition to the tunnel is a vertical access shaft approximately 3m in diameter. Both have substantial exclusion zones and strict guidelines with regards to loading and unloading of the ground. A piled foundation scheme using a series of cantilevered foundations, and a cantilevering structure above, avoid piling within the exclusion zone. 

We undertook a Transport Assessment for the proposed development and as a result set out the existing and proposed trip rates to and from the site. TRACC software was used to determine the walking, cycling and public transport catchment areas.

We produced two Travel Plans, one for the Leisure facilities and another for the residential area. As the proposed development is car-free, it was necessary to focus the design on sustainable modes of transport and the Travel Plan therefore suggests walking, cycling and public transport. A parking survey, undertaken by a specialist, assessed the viability of providing on street disabled car parking spaces.

The Sustainable Drainage Systems on site include rainwater harvesting, green roofs, rain gardens, permeable paving and below ground attenuation tanks.

Taken to Stage 3.

Project Information


Islington Council


Pollard Thomas Edwards




Pollard Thomas Edwards