When you walk into the Neumatt sports center, the first thing you notice is its energy and vibrancy. It comes not just from the children playing basketball in a space that's flooded by natural light, but also from the bright green floor and walls, which lead to large windows that reflect the blue of the sky and the colorful doors of the change rooms, painted in rainbow-like shades of yellow, red, orange and blue.
Neumatt is a 2,300sq meter, 3-pitch sports hall created by award-winning Swiss architecture and design studio Evolution Design and completed in December 2015. Situated in Strengelbach, a village some 38miles outside of Zurich, the building is designed to meet international sporting standards, but is far from simply functional.
'If you want to encourage people to do sport you have to create a building that people like to be in,' says Evolution Design technical director Marco Noch.
All about color Color is key to the effectiveness of this design. Children are the center's biggest users and the studio takes this into account by using color both decoratively and as a navigation device. Changing rooms are colored rather than numbered, and each shower room is a simple concrete and wood design that is enlivened by bright primary shades.
'Very often architects design for adults, but children have different needs,' says Tanya Ruegg, Evolution Design creative director. 'We felt it was important to use color. Not only is it easier for children to navigate with color, but it's more playful and taps into the way children see the world.'
Natural light also plays an important role. The glazed upper level delivers ample light and, because of its scale, a real sense of being part of the outdoors. 'It's important that the center doesn't feel dark or dingy. We want to create a space where you have a sense of time passing,' says Marco Noch.
Meeting community needs Color is particularly important in the design, because the building itself is very simple in both construction and materials in order to meet a key component of the brief: the center was commissioned by the local municipality of Strengelbach and cost efficiency was a key consideration.
'The local community voted to decide whether the building is needed on the understanding that if the vote is yes, taxes will be raised to pay for it. Of course, people only vote yes if they know that the design will be as efficient as possible,' says Marco Noch. 'From our perspective this has given real rigor to our process. We have learned how to make great buildings very cost effectively.'
Part of the landscape The center is surrounded by schools, sport fields and low rise housing. The site also slopes slightly and the design accommodates this by being higher at one end than the other. 'Sports centers can be big chunky buildings, but we wanted to reduce the impact and have it fit in with the existing landscape. We wanted it to look as if it grew out of the slope,' says Tanya Ruegg.
The façade, too, has been designed to blend in, with an upper glazed level that reflects the sky and changes the color depending on the time of day. The stucco base features a pattern of sporting icons, creating a unique visual identity for the building.
Showcasing renewable energy Ecological considerations were important, too. The upper floor uses a special capillary glass that maximizes thermal insulation, but also delivers optimum natural light and minimizes glare, ensuring that artificial light is rarely needed. There is no air-conditioning, instead a geothermal heat pump, which uses naturally existing heat from below ground to heat the building in winter and cool it in summer.
'It's important that children grow up with environmentally friendly buildings,' says Marco Noch. 'We want to show them that the world of tomorrow is not a world of endless resources.'
This is the latest in a series of sports halls designed by the studio and it's easy to see why Evolution Design's work wins awards. In a northern climate with challenging weather, a sports center like this - light, bright, welcoming and enjoyable right down to its lively, vibrant color scheme - is almost better than playing outdoors.