Re-imagining the Sports Pavilion to create a new University venue

  • Date

    Thu 20 Oct 22

SU President Nashwa Alsakka and VP Student Experience Kobbie Agyemang at the Sports Pavilion

An architectural gem at the Colchester Campus is being celebrated after being refurbished by the Estates team and has now reopened as a cafe and venue available for students, staff, and the wider community.

The Sports Pavilion was designed by emerging architects, and young Cambridge University lecturers, John Meunier and Barry Gasson and originally opened in the Academic Year 1969-1970, just a few years after the University opened.

The architects went on to use ideas applied on the Colchester Campus at the iconic Burrell Collection in Glasgow, completed in 1983, which famously looks to combine nature with art.

The building will now be open as a cafe on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, while also being available for bookings at other times.

Meunier and Gasson were committed to the idea that the less we put between the observer and the natural world, the more we see of nature and the more human we feel. As a result, the Sports Pavilion social space provides a unique location for events using floor-to-ceiling steel and glass structural walls and just two slender steel columns, so views across Wivenhoe Park are uninterrupted.

Unveiling a plaque at the Sports Pavilion last month to acknowledge the significance of the building to contemporary architecture, John Meunier said: “I think the University has done a magnificent job in committing to restore this building, which is very dear to my heart. I congratulate Essex on adopting this generous approach of honouring where you have come from and then using that to drive you forward into the future.”

The refurbishment is aimed at making the building an exciting venue for sports clubs and societies while also attracting students onto the sports pitches to come and support the University’s competitive teams.

We also hope it will be used by our academic departments and sections and the local community.

The President of the Students’ Union, Nashwa Alsakka, said: “It is exciting to see the space refurbished right in time for students returning to the Colchester Campus! I look forward to it becoming an area where sports teams can hang out in between matches and for supporters to have a warm place to support from.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “This is a very special building, an awesome venue and I really hope it will be well used by everyone.”

Visit or book the Pavilion

The Pavilion will be operating as a café on Wednesdays from 12pm to 4pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 2pm. The whole University community is welcome.

The Pavilion is also bookable through Event Essex at other times.

More about the Sports Pavilion

With their designs for the Sports Pavilion at the University of Essex, Meunier and Gasson in essence created a small cluster of multi-faceted buildings, one if which is 100% glazed. The Pavilion is located amongst the Wivenhoe Park sports pitches with 270-degree views across the parkland, rather than as traditional along the side of a major pitch with a single orientation.

This innovative design anticipates the Burrell Museum in Glasgow, one of Scotland’s most iconic 20th-century buildings. The triangular plan is inspired by the three elements of the project, men’s changing rooms, women’s changing rooms, and social space. With extraordinary attention to detail, the architects also designed diamond-shaped tables especially for the Pavilion, sliding glazed panels, and a courtyard to use the outside space when the weather permitted it. The Pavilion is a striking building that invites you in and then draws you out, whatever the time of day.