Most people who come here are awed by the ceiling. Far above, steel arcs between thin Y-shaped columns like delicate waka skeletons gliding in the air. Elias Shadrock, however, is more concerned with the floor.
Elias plays netball for the Central Pulse who train and, occasionally, play here. She also works for the ASB sports centre in their operations team. Elias’s day revolves around this building – setting up the courts for school groups or team sports, using the gym or practicing on the courts.
Beneath the vaulted space, Elias’s focus is on the floor. The give in the wooden surface when she lands hard and the spring when she leaps are what her legs and her game are interested in. The evenness of the bounce, the lack of dead spots that will cause a netball to startle mid-bounce and roll off the court, separation between one court and another, Elias is aware of all these details. “We love the floor here,” she says.
Located at the head of Evans Bay, ASB Wellington Indoor Sports Centre is a nod to the area’s maritime heritage with the angled, moveable fins encircling the ovoid building. The indoor community sports centre accommodates 12 netball courts with flexible arrangements for basketball, volleyball and badminton. A tapered central spine, run in between the two sports chambers, the steel structure reflecting waka and anthropomorphic movement.
What makes this sports centre different is the light. Sports centres are inherently artificial: varnished floors and fluorescent lights, nylon netting and primary paints. The interiors here have the same components, and yet the seductive, sculptural way light has been corralled and coerced makes this huge centre feel instantly more human. The use of natural light is both inviting and inspiring.
Light is used to articulate the edges of the space. The oval plan is enclosed with tall, concrete fins offset just far enough from its neighbour to insert a thin strip of glass between each panel. As the sun moves around the building, the walls change from being softly bathed with sunlight to being striped with chiaroscuro shadows. The light-washed concrete is the key design move in this building, anchoring the huge, glossed and structurally dominant space with a more tactile backdrop of beauty and changeability.