The National Aquatic Centre

I have developed a very acquired sense of creative design. It has become so odd that when I experience a designed space, fashion or art piece my mind discerns it’s creative value immediately. My brain literally screams “WOW!” in that fleeting moment of first impression (provided that I am impressed). I have also discovered that my brain’s interpretation of what makes something uniquely creative is heavily associated with the impact of how the designed space or thing makes me feel (I mean to say that the designed space or thing evokes some type of emotion rather it moves me).  Moreover,  the designer’s ability to manifest differentiation via harmonious alignment of the elements and the principles of design is a major contributing factor.  The National Aquatic Centre is a recently designed space that catches my attention in Balmain, Trinidad. Here are my casual design thoughts below.

Photo Credit:

CGML – CG Murray Ltd.

The vision for this facility fell nothing short of creating an opportunity to develop the swimming potential of athletes to perform at national and international competitions, to support a high performance sport, to host  competitions at national and international levels, to promote sport tourism by offering training programs for international swim teams during winter months, to generate income and revenue for maintenance and upkeep of the facility. The  National Aquatic Centre has a seating capacity of 700 persons. It features a 50 meter swimming pool, a 50 meter warm up pool and a 25 meter diving pool. Additionally, there is an aqua gym, Turkish baths, a fitness room, a sauna, a cold water pool, concession outlets, ticket booths, VIP/Official, media, public seating and multipurpose rooms for event organizers. There is even an aqua park.

Photo Credit:

CGML – CG Murray Ltd.

There is a lot of use of glass, concrete and steel. There is an apparent mix of what may be modern, contemporary and  feng shui styles. Albeit the designers were faced with the task of creating a space that is kid friendly, slip and mildew resistant not to mention durable yet suitable for accommodating huge crowds of varying backgrounds. The facility is in a shade of reddish orange that is strong, warm, passionate and vibrant. This is the welcoming hue used on the exterior walls of the facility. The interiors like the lobby are kept more on the monochromatic and achromatic colour schemes. There is a viewing area here where one can see the tournaments through huge glass windows. The ceiling in the lobby has textured straight lines adorned with curves that include lighting systems. The seating arrangement in here does not feel static allowing guests to converse without feeling too formal. It is easy to enter spectator stands to view  and the view is not bad at all. The concession area and bathrooms are also close by. There is ample parking and security is available.

Photo Credit:

CGML – CG Murray Ltd.

The building has rhythm and flow. The proportion and scale used is appropriate. There is use of symmetry. I like the  striking balance between vertical, horizontal and curved lines which soften any stark macho vibes from the concrete facility. The tall columns help to create an illusion of grandeur but the horizontal columns keeps the overall look grounded. The open air concept is modern but suitable for this tropical location. Visitors can bask in the natural backdrop of a lush green environment and the refreshing sight and sound of  divers splashing water as they take off to meet each other at the finish line. This ambience is quite therapeutic and invigorating at the same time for athletes getting in their frame of mind before plunging in the pool. There is a certain magic in the air where premeditated design philosophy and execution collide. The diagonal lines that form triangles add a transformational quality to this international water stage. It appears to be setting up a scene for athletes to journey into another phase of their swimming game.

Photo Credit:

CGML – CG Murray Ltd.

 Already the centre has hosted national tournaments. This gives the secondary school circuit an empowering outlet for local students to thrive in another area not previously accessible at this caliber of competition. This year seven swim teams from North America have chosen this location to begin their winter based training camp. The Centre is doing exceptionally well however I have a few pet peeves with the design of this facility. On tournament days patrons may find themselves parking at more available parking spots which are further away from the facility.  I would suggest installation of a covered walkway because rain is not very scarce in Trinidad.  I would recommend installing some sort of screen or acrylic window treatments to keep the rain out from spectator stands. Rain  is often accompanied by wind (I do not know if it falls differently anywhere else?!). The pools are covered by a roof but the open concept design does not cater for the wind blowing in the rain to the stands or pools. If you are seated in public stands the rain will shower you with infinite blessings from every direction that our Caribbean breezes decide to blow their kisses (walk with a sweater, a rain coat and or a towel).

Photo Credit:

CGML – CG Murray Ltd.

The National Aquatic Centre is an interestingly created space with a significant contribution to the design culture and architectural history of Trinidad and Tobago.  I can’t say enough how much I love the impact of design. I have already seen the way this created space has been a beacon of hope for the youth in Trinidad and Tobago as a place they can be proud of and one they can call their own. They are able to project themselves in a trajectory that is triumphant of building physically stronger, mutually respectful and team spirited young men and women in this nation. It is my only wish that the facility is thoroughly engaged to serve its purpose and that it is continuously maintained in the future. If you are ever in Trinidad and Tobago you should definitely visit and experience a swimming tournament here.

One comment

  1. I live not even 10 minutes from there, but through your post I’ve seen more of what it looks like. I thoroughly enjoyed your description of the centre. Hoping I can attend an event there sometime in the future.

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