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Pumped-up architecture

Your place or mine? Work or home? The alternative in both cases is the Third Space, a health and fitness club at 13 Sherwood Street, off London's Piccadilly Circus.

The Third Space is the brainchild of a new company called Longshot Health & Fitness, which plans to open several more branches in London.

Unlike other health and fitness clubs, where the emphasis tends to be on fitness, Third Space attaches equal importance to its health facilities. The top floor contains a spacious medical centre with its own resident GP, offering acupuncture, reflexology, homeopathy and a host of other treatments.

The approach is seriously holistic, with provision for putting every muscle of your body in tune with your inner spirit.

Training and fitness facilities range from a Hypoxic Chamber on the top floor, where you can experience altitude training, to a boxing ring and weightlifting at basement level. The cocktail of activities in between includes pilates, military circuits, pre- and post-natal exercise, skipping, kick boxing and bike spinning, to mention a very few of the specialisations on offer.

The club also aims to break the typical fitness club design mould. The client instructed architect Collcutt + Hamp that Third Space must, at all costs, be unlike other fitness centres or clubs. Where rivals occupy underground spaces, Third Space should be filled with light and open to the sky. Floor plans were to be open, and free from cellular compartments for segregated activities, and detailing had to move away from traditional materials. Most emphatically, there was to be 'no blonde wood'.

Architect Collcutt + Hamp masterminded the project and had direct responsibility for the layout and main circulation areas, while individual interior designers worked on fitting out various specialised areas, as the project neared completion.

Before concentrating on the interior design, several practical problems had to be tackled, of which sound insulation was the most important: the Regent Palace hotel occupies the five top floors of the 1930s building, and the Piccadilly Theatre (where, as it happens, Michael Frayn's Noises Off is currently playing) abuts it to the south.

Other challenges included accommodating a stack of mechanical and engineering equipment, inserting a new mezzanine, and working around existing structural steel columns and concrete beams.

Collcutt + Hamp has certainly achieved the desired openness. As you walk up a ramp behind David Bentheim's blood-red fibreglass reception desk, you are confronted by a visual section through the heart of the building: below you, under a structural glass deck, engineered to take aerobic classes, is a subterranean swimming pool; above you, a double-height void covered by a large rooflight gives swimmers an open view of the sky. Two further gymnasium floors, enclosed by glazed walls, rise around the void over the pool.

The use of mirror-wall finishes, glass balustrading on the central, metal staircase, and glass fire-doors framed in galvanised mild steel, reinforce the transparency theme. From every point of the building, you can observe other members engaged in different activities. For example, the climbing wall ascends from the basement, through each floor in turn, and emerges under patent glazing in a rear corner of the building. Where partitions are needed, as in the pilates room, mirrored walls and glass partitions minimise their separation from the open-plan areas. The martial arts room overlooks the pool through a glazed wall, like a Japanese tea pavilion.

Dark oak has replaced the prohibited 'blonde' wood in some of the training areas.

On the top floor, a mauve Amtico tile-effect linoleum, covering an access floor plate, unites the various activity and circulation areas. On other floors, the high-spec, metallic access flooring panels are left exposed.

Hard-wearing, red liquid plastic covers the surface of the spin-bike platform, showing off the squadrons of cycle machines.

All the structural riveted-steel columns have been left exposed and sprayed with silver intumescent paint. Most walls and ceilings are finished in white-painted plaster, but there are areas of galvanised panelling, painted MDF panels, and soft rush-covered padding on the lower walls of the martial arts room. Red leather backrests are fitted to walls above the tightly upholstered banquets in the reception, and in the communal area between the changing rooms.

On every floor, carpeted chill-out areas are defined by chunky, galvanised aluminium-framed chairs and sofas, with comfortable soft white upholstery, as if to reassure you that there is more to Third Space than sweat and self-discipline. A triptych called 'Man in a Blue Jacket 2001' by artist Victoria Achache, on loan to the club for a year, is hung above the pool; its vivid colouring perfectly reflects its setting.

The medical centre is another world, with clay-rendered wall finishes and a pale, restful colour scheme - sandy fawn and watery green - addressing the human body more gently than the challenging environment in other parts of the club.

CREDITS

CLIENT Longshot Health & Fitness ARCHITECT Collcutt + Hamp: Nick Farnell MAIN CONTRACTOR Harmonix Construction QUANTITY SURVEYOR & PROJECT MANAGEMENT Deacon & Jones STRUCTURAL DESIGN MMP M&E ENGINEER Foremans/FBL UK INTERIOR AND DESIGN CONSULTANTS David Bentheim, Goldstein Ween, Nina Campbell, Anthony Roderick Design, Anna Skibicka IT CONSULTANT Charles Woolnough SIGNAGE AND DIGITAL PROJECTION Collcutt + Hamp SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS lighting Isometrix Lighting & Design; sound installation Total Sound/ Amina NXT; sprung timber flooring Activity Flooring; sanitaryware, work units to medical centre Alternative Plans; entry system Broughton Controls; spas Catalina; steam and sauna Charterhouse Leisure; Terrafino clay plaster finish in medical centre Construction Resources; sanitaryware in female changing CP Hart; Corain tops Cecra Plastic; changing room floor tiles Domus Tiles; climbing wall EntrePrises; intumescent spray to columns Ferrous Protection; painting and decorating G Martin; ironmongery Gatcliff Enterprises; Regupol flooring Gymtec; raised access floors and Amtico linoleum Hewetson Floors; liquid plastic to walls and floors Lasar Contracts; sustainable Kumuru timber pool surround Michael Beringer; glass floor, screens and stairs Mitchell Gate; studwork partitions and ceilings MPG Contracts; group reception desk Multitex; entrance concrete Pro Pave; lockers Prospec; Dalsouple flooring SGP Carpets; pool tiles Swedecor; rooflights Trent Design Group; male 'towers'changing area VK Engineering; tilingWilson & Wylie Contracts; Roca large brick tiles in female changingWorld's End Tiles; timber laminated doors Youngs Doors; wall padding to martial arts Choke

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