Game, set and match: helping the world’s most famous tennis club in its pursuit of greatness
David RiversView bio
Every summer, Wimbledon turns into the centre of the tennis world, with players and fans arriving from all corners of the globe to experience one of the premier events on the sporting calendar. For two weeks of the year, a relatively small area of SW19 transforms into a glorious summer garden, with strawberries and Pimm’s on the menu and millions of eyes following the ups and downs of the best the game has to offer.
However, for the other 50 weeks of the year, attention moves elsewhere, and most people probably assume everything goes quiet until the following summer. The truth couldn’t be more different, with a whirlwind of activity year-round.
For the last five years, since joining Cundall, I’ve been fortunate to work on a couple of projects with The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and Grounds (AELTG), who are collectively responsible for running The Championships and managing the Estate. While most of the public focus is understandably on the former, there is a massive team of people involved in the latter, from the ground staff who prepare the grass courts through to the Estate Development team, who are responsible for developing the facilities to ensure they remain best in class. It is the latter team who we have been working with to deliver both upgrades to Centre Court to mark its centenary last year, and a new, top quality Members’ facility next door to the main campus on Somerset Road.
So, what is it like working for the All England Club? In many ways, they are a dream client. They are knowledgeable, hard-working, and committed to achieving the highest quality. In turn, they reasonably expect the best from their consultants and contractors, but at the same time are very encouraging of new ideas and clever solutions. The upshot of this has been some of the highest performing teams I have been part of during my career. Clear expectations and effective communication have allowed the whole design team to work successfully towards a common goal, with increased freedom to explore designs where quality and aesthetics are the primary focus.
The undulating roof over the indoor courts of the Members’ facility is an excellent example of this. While the basic geometrical concept was driven by competing demands of limiting overall height whilst ensuring adequate space to play, achievement of the finished product was a true multi-disciplinary endeavour. The shape of the roof went through numerous iterations between us and the architect, Hopkins, with the use of Dynamo scripting helping to automate the coordination. Further input came from the MEP consultant, such that the curved lighting strips could be embedded into the roof build-up and integrated with a complex mosaic of suspended ceiling panels. Key visual connections went from CGI renders to 3D printed mock-ups to full-scale mock-ups to the real thing on site. Erection of the arches required a detailed and precisely managed sequence to ensure the self-weight of the arches was transferred into the tension ties rather than the supporting structure. The subsequent fit-out was divided across multiple packages and required careful management and coordination. Yet, despite so many moving parts, the finished product is testament to the team spirit created and hard work of those involved.
The effectiveness of strong collaboration has been my biggest takeaway from these projects and is reflective of the wider Wimbledon ethos of always being in pursuit of greatness.