September 3, 2023
By Bath Voice news editor Harry Mottram and John Wimperis of the local democracy service: The architects behind an alternative design for Bath’s new rugby stadium — which has captured the popular imagination — hope local people might push for the design.
Bath Rugby’s long-held ambition to develop a rugby stadium at the Rec has been progressing recently, with a consultation on their designs carried out earlier this year.
But two Bath architects have caused a stir with a counter-design in classical style. Mark Wilson Jones and Jakub Ryng of Apollodorus Architecture reimagined the new stadium as a oval Roman colosseum, together with a classical rebuild of the leisure centre.
Bath Rugby Club and in particular its stadium or rather ground at Bath’s Recreation Ground is not just for the preserve of the club and its supporters.
The landmark site and the club itself are of far wider importance – indeed many in the city feel an ownership of the site and the team that goes far beyond buying a ticket for a match.
So it is important to remind ourselves that any changes to the ground will be viewed with interest across Britain and indeed the rugby playing nations of Europe and yes the world. Which is why the new design must get it right and not be something that is regretted in a few short years time
Mark Wilson Jones and Jakub Ryng of Apollodorus Architecturedismissed the current plans from the club and argue Bath ‘deserves much better’. The critique of the current plans on the table are that it would essentially look ugly from above, fails to match the Bath skyline and does not sit well next to the Leisure Centre and the river side.
Instead Apollodorus Architecture offer up a colosseum – an oval shaped stadium that reflects the city’s Roman past, compliments the Georgian aspect of Bath and is an addition to the architecture of the city rather than a detraction. The practice cites for example the Hilton Hotel as to how not to design a building for Bath and makes criticisms of the current leisure centre which ideally would be rebuilt to blend into the new building so there was a unified structure.
The comments online have so far been very positive – unlike some of the negative comments about Bath Rugby’s plans which have not been so explicit in detail as those from Apollodorus Architecture. There is of course a major question mark over the London practice’s ideas: the cost. Who would pay for the colosseum stadium and its adjoining Leisure Centre to be built? And with the considerable debt the club already has and the shrunk size of the rugby’s top flight league due to bankruptcies last season meaning less gate money and funds from hospitality it’s a pertinent question.
A stadium fit for a Roman Emperor? It certainly looks differen
For a reality check Reading’s Madejski stadium cost around £80m to construct while Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium had a £72.8m price tag and others in Hull, Cardiff and Leicester were all over £50m. Those eye watering figures are likely to have influenced the current design on offer as the plans would suggest a much lower figure to fund – one the club feels it can afford. That said, seen in a wider context there is scope to include a more ambitious creation – which could attract more partners with deeper pockets. And in a world of shared stadiums other clubs and teams could be interested in a colosseum fit for a Roman Emperor and perhaps upwards of 50,00 spectators.
Reporter John Wimperis said Mark Wilson Jones and Jakub Ryng of Apollodorus Architecture had put their plans to Bath Rugby but have been ‘politely declined’ by the club
They told John Wimperis that under their plans, the leisure centre would be divided into two blocks, with more pedestrian connections, and an open square in front of the Pavilion, which would be kept. The buildings would continue the classical style of the colosseum stadium, complete with a Roman lighthouse-styled tower.
Wilson Jones said: “This is an idealistic vision put forward really just to shake things up and get people to think in those kinds of ways.”
He is hoping that, if the city is behind the new design, a grassroots group of people could form to promote it.
Mr Wilson Jones said: “If it resonates enough with people I suppose they have got to do something about it.”
John Wimperis in his report said the architects felt it was up to local people to press for a more radical approach and to pressure the club to be open to the ideas.
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