Dunraven Container Sports Hall

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Sea container sports hall, Dunraven School, Streatham, London

“… a building that would have cost £2.25 million had it been built by conventional methods has been realised for £1.5 million … SCABAL’s real achievement is that it has produced a building as exotic and engaging as you could hope to realise on twice the budget.”

Ellis Woodman, Building Design, Thursday 11th June 2009

Innovative, sustainable and eye-catching, this sports hall designed for Dunraven School in the London Borough of Lambeth is the first to be built in this way anywhere in the world. Thirty 40’ sea containers used as both structure and internal accommodation create an extremely simple and cost effective building that captures and promotes the participatory excitement of sports making a multi-purpose community facility that gives the school the best indoor sporting environment they could wish for, “so much more than a boring shed” whilst staying well within the local authority’s strict budget constraint.

Large areas of glazing, using an immediately recognisable back-garden motif, the domestic greenhouse which is continued internally with a trowel, a wheelbarrow and watering cans, allow activity in the hall to be seen by spectators, providing glimpses from the street, connecting the inside action of the building with the outside life of the surrounding landscape – qualities too often lacking in the ubiquitous and closed box of conventional sports halls.

The orientation of the building is carefully considered to maximise its presence on the street, with the north elevation comprising a three-storey arrangement of translucent polycarbonate panels and the clear glazing of the ‘greenhouses’ cookie-cut on each corner. Along with the internal openings in the first-floor gallery and the clearstory, this positioning of the whole building and its fenestration allows the interior to be flooded with natural daylight without interference from direct sunlight. This daylight and sense of openness also makes the space suitable for exams, assemblies and other important events for the school and the surrounding community.

At night, when the Hall becomes available for community use as a sports facility or a multi-purpose hall, this composition of openings makes the street frontage of the building glow while the lit-up window shapes around the sides further animate the form.

Commissioned by London Borough of Lambeth and built by Container City (USM) in three months with on-site installation only three days, using funding from the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ scheme this innovative approach to building and commitment to sustainability was rewarded by being the ‘Best Small Building Project’ at the prestigious Building Industry Construction Awards in 2009. This project has led SCABAL to design variations of sea container sports halls in China, Norway, India (under construction), USA and Nigeria.

Service: Architects

Location: Streatham, London

Client: London Borough of Lambeth and Dunraven School

Cost: 1.6m (approx. £1,300/ m2)

Areas: 1,200 m2 Three-storey sports hall building: 1,200 m2, Full-height 4 court (18m x 33m) hall: 600 m2, Ground floor girls and boys changing rooms: 150 m2, First floor gym and viewing gallery: 230 m2, Second floor viewing gallery without fit-out: 220 m2

Dates:  November 2008 – March 2009; on site for less than 3 months

Contract: Design and Build DB2007

Energy: BREEAM Very Good


Winner BCIA 2009 – Small Building Project Award

Finalist BCIA 2009 Prime Minister’s Award – Better Public Building

Highly Commended 2010 BCSE Awards – Best Sport and Play Environment

Finalist 2010 Building Awards – Public Building Project of the Year

Shortlisted 2010 RICS Awards – Category Sustainability

Shortlisted RIBA London Awards 2010 – RIBA London Building of the Year Award


Contemporary Green Prefab, Industrialized & Kit Architecture, Instituto Monsa de Ediciones, 2012

Plan Magazine, March 2010

The Telegraph, Telegraph Review, 13 June 2009

Building Design, 12 June 2009

Living in a box presented by Maxwell Hutchinson, Inside Out, BBC1, 18 February 2009

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