R100-million Virgin Active health club completes final phase of two-year Greenacres upgrade

R100-million Virgin Active health club completes final phase of two-year Greenacres upgrade

LOOKING FIT: SVA International’s Jannie Wagenaar and Greenacres centre manager Brent Starr inspect the new Virgin Active health club that forms the final phase of the two-year shopping centre upgrade.

The opening of the largest Virgin Active health club in the Eastern Cape – a modern, R100 million, raised health and fitness space – signifies the culmination of a two-year upgrade of Port Elizabeth’s iconic Greenacres Shopping Centre precinct.

Designed by SVA International, the 3 572m² Virgin Active – 100m² larger than the former premises across the road – officially opened its doors in July. SVA also led the renovation of the adjoining shopping centre.

According to SVA’s Jannie Wagenaar, who worked on the project, the architectural team’s brief was to create a contemporary, cube-like fitness space that would become a landmark in its own right, while fitting in with the upgraded shopping centre precinct and activating the centre’s underutilised rooftop parking.

Their solution was to create an eye-catching, two-level building raised on pillars above the existing ground-level centre parking. The building’s elevated entryway connects via a bridge to the upper parking decks at the centre’s northern retail entrance.

Wagenaar says the elevated nature of the building presented a number of structural challenges as well as opportunities to maximise the 360 degree views of the city.

Jaco Howard, also of SVA International, says the team made the most of the sea views from the swimming pool on the lower level, by using large windows with high-performance glazing and sun louvres on the north-eastern corner of the building.

On the mezzanine level, full-height glazing on the studio windows, interspersed with off-shutter concrete details, framed the views of the Lady Slipper mountain to the west, he says.

“Fitness spaces naturally demanded high-volume areas, which gave the team plenty of room to flex their architectural muscle. The building is very simple and sleek, so we incorporated pop-out elements such as vertical sheeting, glazing details and red composite aluminium finishes to create points of architectural interest,” says Howard.

Of the structural challenges, Wagenaar says one of the major engineering feats was suspending the swimming pool above the ground-level parking.

“Concrete is not a waterproof substrate, so we undertook a number of intense waterproofing measures to ensure that there are no leaks, including mixing in additives to the concrete. The 308 000 litre pool is undergirded by a system of large structural beams to support the weight and counter the movement of the water when the pool is in use.

“Various sustainable initiatives, such as rainwater harvesting for topping up the pool, and recycling grey water from showers, are being investigated. The white rooftop is also designed to be energy efficient and solar-farm ready.”

Greenacres centre manager Brent Starr says the opening of the new health club will add tremendous value to the Greenacres precinct and he looks forward to a positive collaboration between the health club and the shopping centre.

“This state-of-the-art health club is the largest in the Eastern Cape and has a completely new layout and format. For Port Elizabeth and the whole Greenacres community, it’s a huge draw card. We feel this partnership will really benefit both parties and we look forward to the journey ahead.”