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Createability

Bringing back the baths - The iconic City Baths in Newcastle have reopened to the public following complete restoration by Createability


Design and construction specialist Createability has finished work on the iconic City Baths in Newcastle, UK. Working together with Napper Architects, the firm has overseen a £7.5m redevelopment of the historic Turkish baths for client Fusion Lifestyle, which manages the facility on behalf of Newcastle City Council. The three-year project has brought the once-neglected Grade II-listed building – which had sat closed since 2013 – back to life.

Planning the works
Fusion Lifestyle won the tender to restore the baths in 2016. Anthony Cawley, Fusion’s Operations Director, says the project’s focus from the very start was to keep the building’s original features and retain its history – but also to add a modern fitness and wellness element.

“We’ve managed to restore a building of outstanding beauty to what it had always been – and that’s what makes it such a special project,” Cawley says.

After initial work with Napper Architects, Fusion brought in Createability to help plan the construction process and add detail to the plans. 

Work included the restoration of the 25m ‘ladies’’ swimming pool and transforming the ‘men’s’ 25m pool into a gym space and fitness studios. The historic Turkish bathing areas – featuring six separate areas – have also been restored, while a day spa has been added to create a modern wellness offering.

“Once we came on board, we went through what was needed and value engineered the project,” says Ian Cotgrave, Createability MD. “We were responsible for every aspect of the works inside the building – the restoration and all construction work. The great thing is that we managed to deliver the project to the price we initially calculated.

“It has been a unique project – not least because there aren’t many Turkish Baths left in the UK.“

A mix of old and new
At the heart of the project have been the Turkish bathing areas and the two swimming pools. 

“The 25 metre former ladies’ pool is now back to its former glory,” Cotgrave says. “We managed to retain all of its original architectural features – even the tiling, which we painfully restored. Some of the features would be hard to repeat using modern methods, so it would’ve been a shame to lose that heritage.”

The building’s Grade II-listed status meant there were limits to how much the project team could change structurally. This resulted in innovative planning work to provide the building with the modern facilities it needed. 

These included an entire gym and group exercise studios being created inside another swimming pool, which had originally acted as the men’s pool. “The former ladies pool is now for swimming, while the men’s pool has been completely filled in and decked over to create a fitness area and the two-level studios,” Cotgrave says. He names the gym space as one of his favourite design aspects of the project. “When you look down at the gym space from the balcony, the studio looks like it’s floating in mid air,” he says.

Retaining history
Cawley says the partnership between the three companies has ensured the project has been delivered on time and on budget. “Createability and Napper Architects have been unbelievable,” Cawley says. “We told them what we wanted, they took it all on board, designed it and built it all.”

Focusing on history

The City Baths are one of only 11 Turkish baths in operation across the UK. Originally designed by architects Nicholas & Dixon-Spain, the Art Deco facility first opened in 1928. “The focus of the project has very much been on bringing a historic building back to life and securing its future by reconfiguring it to ensure it can generate income and becomes sustainable,” says Createability MD Ian Cotgrave.

Economic sustainability

As well as restoring the building to its former glory, the project has focused on securing its operational success. “We need to make the building economically viable, so we can keep it open,” Cawley says. “The reason it closed down in the first place was because it wasn’t sustainable. The work Createability has done to create fantastic, modern facilities will help with that – the more people we can get to use the facility, the better.”

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Company profile: Alliance Leisure Services Ltd
The company’s core business is the provision of facility development and support for local authorities, educational establishments and leisure trusts that want to improve or expand the leisure products and services they offer.
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The interiors are by Hong Kong-based practice CCD with input from Jochman
Martin Jochman founded JADE+QA in 2013. He formerly worked for Atkins
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