The vitality of our cities is the theme of this week’s World Architecture Day and one area we can make a difference as a profession is in the quality of elite and community sports venues

Mike Hall

“Healthy cities, happy cities” is the chosen theme of this year’s World Architecture Day, (6 October) organised by the International Union of Architects. The aim being to celebrate the role architects and architecture play in the vitality of the urban setting and the well-being of local inhabitants. The theme begs the question, what is a healthy city, and how are architects designing such spaces?

The metrics behind healthy cities are complex, especially when it comes to the role architecture might play in contributing to this status. In terms of activity and participation in sport there are a number of cities in England which may rightly lay claim to the top participation honours.

Sheffield frequently comes out as one of the top performing cities. Major landmark facilities such as International Sports Centre Ponds Forge and the English Institute for Sport have played a key role in contributing to community participation and elite training.

Manchester can also boast its place as one of the highest performing cities especially when the efficient cost of delivering these services is factored in. The Manchester Aquatics Centre was purpose-built to host the water-based disciplines for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and is still one of the world’s most flexible pool complexes. Its central arterial location on Oxford Road is also at the heart of one of the most sought after student locations in the country.

Derby City Council has set out a vision to be ‘the most active city in the UK by 2015’

This contributes to a healthy balance of community, student and high performance usage with a staggering 750,000 users through the turnstiles each year. Manchester City Council has consistently promoted a number of key sports in the area, from developing programs to hosting National and International events. Manchester’s National Cycling Centre has just celebrated its 20th birthday and remains the world’s most well-used velodrome facility. It has provided the bedrock of British cycling track success for the last three Olympic Games, and long may this success continue.

In terms of active, healthy cities there is perhaps a new kid on the block, Derby. Derby City Council has set out a vision to be “the most active city in the UK by 2015”. FaulknerBrowns was involved in the early stages of implementing its leisure strategy. Building on lessons learned from Sheffield and Manchester, the recently opened Derby arena – which incorporates a cycle track – is one of the most innovative whch has improved access to a range of activities including court sports and health and fitness, in addition to cycling.

In the spirit of celebrating 20 years of cycling success in Manchester and the completion of new facilities in Derby, FaulknerBrowns recently organised a Velo2Velo charity cycle between these two active cities. The event took in some of the most beautiful countryside along the way and started and finished at two landmark sporting facilities which inspire talent and promote well-being within their respective communities. As architects, we need to be committed to designing carefully considered, sustainable and quality facilities, such as these, which help make healthy, happy cities.

Mike Hall is a partner, architect and urban designer at FaulknerBrowns. He is responsible for heading up the practice’s work in the sports and leisure sector