Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre, Surrey (BC) by HCMA Architecture + Design

published in sb 3/2016

Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre is located in Surrey, British Columbia - one of Canada’s most rapidly growing cities. With growing densification came the need for recreational and community spaces that promote wellness, learning, healthy living, and athletic excellence. The City’s desire for an “iconic” destination pool to entice families, athletes and international competitions drove the design. Through close collaboration with the client and diverse user groups, the architects arrived at a design that maximized glazing towards the street, activating the project edge and blurring lines between interior and exterior spaces. Both a destination training facility and key venue for regional, national and international competitions, the centre is an anchor for the developing community.


The project vision was to design and build a world-class aquatic centre to attract people from everywhere, while expressing the community’s ambition for Surrey. Inclusivity and universal access help to support a diverse culture. Intended to accommodate the needs of its growing community, the aquatic centre plays a vital role as the area develops and the master plan vision, which HCMA Architecture + Design also helped to develop, is realized.

The aquatic and fitness programs consist of a 50m lap pool designed to meet FINA standards for competitive diving, swimming, synchronized swimming and water polo, as well as a leisure pool, two hot pools, sauna and steam rooms, and a fitness centre located on the second level overlooking the natatorium. With seating for up to 900 spectators, it is poised to act as a premier destination for competitive diving and swimming, synchronized swimming and water polo events. Yet its pro-athlete capabilities are carefully balanced with the needs of recreational users – without compromising the unique needs of either group. 

For a pool of such size, HCMA recognized the ceiling as an important point of visual interest for swimmers as they float in the leisure pool or backstroke down the lanes. Shying away from typical ribbed ceilings of steel, the architects took a new approach. Investigating the feasibility of an almost-exclusively wood roof solution, the team developed the world’s longest span timber catenary roof ever built.

Pioneering technical excellence, the distinctive roof undulations were driven by functional needs, rather than lofty aesthetic goals – a perfect union of form and function. Prefabricated from regionally-sourced Douglas fir beams, these roof panels were crane-lifted into place in just eight days. The structure achieves the clear spans required for pools, yet used only a 1m-thick structure. The building volume created by the suspended roof is 20 % less than that of the truss roof, making it much more efficient to heat and cool. The roof is dynamic, moving independently from the vertical structure. Because the roof is suspended, its structure allows for a certain amount of deflection under snow loads and wind uplift.

Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre sets world-class Olympic pool facilities beneath the world’s longest span timber catenary roof system, while playing a vital role in accommodating the needs of its growing community. 

to the picture gallery

Watch the installation of the roof – the longest span timber catenary roof ever constructed