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KSS designs new state-of-the-art training centre for Liverpool Football Club

The new building incorporates a range of media, football operations and specialist training facilities, providing a motivational environment that interprets the Club’s values in its form and materiality.

28/04/2021 5 min read

With both our Editor and Publisher being massive fans of the Club, there was never any way we were missing out on this story (something our cunning contributors from KSS were all too aware of!). In fact, some of you may recall that the firm picked up the Mixology North Award for Leisure Interiors Project of the Year in 2017 for its fantastic design of the Main Stand at Anfield.

We’re not looking at Anfield here, however. We’re taking a look at the Club’s fantastic new training facilities at Kirkby, to the north east of the city.

The AXA Training Centre is located at the northern end of Liverpool Football Club’s existing Training Academy at Kirkby, bringing the First Team squad to this site for the first time.

Arranged over two levels, the building is divided into separate wings containing facilities for the First Team and U23 squads, with shared space between. The state-of-the-art facilities include a full-size sports hall and gyms for performance training, medical, sports science and hydrotherapy areas for injury management as well as player dining and recreation, administration offices, dedicated TV studios and a press conference room. Externally, the building sits in a landscaped environment with three new external pitches and games areas for the First Team.

We ask KSS Associate Director, Debbie Power, to tell us about the design here at Kirkby. ‘First, the siting and orientation of the building within the expanded Kirkby site was carefully considered,’ Debbie says. ‘Creating the right relationship between building and pitches and, crucially, between the new Training Centre and the existing Academy was a critical step in creating a site order which responded to the Club’s functional needs and ethos for the new combined facility.

‘The linear nature of the building presents the maximum frontage to the pitches, establishing a clear, natural relationship between building and playing space. This composition also reinforces the separation between First Team and Academy, creating a private, secluded area for the First Team players.

‘The building itself is designed as a series of one and two storey volumes. Fenestration and the use of glazed areas to divide the façades provide a counterpoint to the linear nature and help to articulate these volumes. A key feature was the use of double-height atria spaces on either side of the building to break up the building mass and introduce natural light via rooflights into the centre of the plan.

‘The Club’s values were interpreted in the building’s form and material language. A deliberately restrained palette of robust, natural materials with an inherent simplicity has been selected and crafted into a dramatic form that fulfils the functional requirements of the whilst also reflecting the strength and ambition of the Club. Use of the Club’s colour is controlled – so when it is used, it delivers a powerful impact.

‘To ensure the facility is uniquely Liverpool FC, the Club’s core values have been embedded within the architecture, interior and graphic design of the building to create a cohesive and holistic approach. Each wing has key references to fans, trophies, players, and song lyrics, integrated in varying ways, but all designed together as part of the user experience journey.’

So what was LFC looking for that the former training facility at Melwood did not offer? ‘There has always been a desire from the Club to combine the Academy and First Team on the same site, Debbie explains. ‘Melwood, although an excellent facility and an important part of the Club’s history, was simply too small to accommodate any further growth. It was therefore decided to consolidate the Club’s facilities into a world-class training centre at Kirkby to secure the Club’s long-term future.’

What are the unique challenges when it comes to designing training facilities? ‘Unlike stadia, training centres are the day-to-day workplaces for footballers and coaching staff and need to be an inspirational and motivational environment,’ Debbie tells us. ‘Each club works in different ways and, therefore, whilst they have similar components, no two training centres are the same. This can depend on the philosophy of the current manager and coaching staff but also the latest trends in sports science and medical development.

‘It is our role to understand the subtle differences and design a bespoke facility that responds to the Club’s aspiration and values, whilst addressing site context, design quality and budget.

‘There is a balance between the different areas used for training, injury management and sports science with the offices for coaching, analysts and scouting and recreation areas for players spending time between sessions. Considerable effort is devoted into creating a building environment which works for all users.’

KSS conducted a benchmarking review of training ground innovations and best practices in this country, across Europe and in the United States. This included visiting KSS’ designed Training Centres for Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC – which is widely recognised as one of the top facilities in the Premier League. Liverpool and KSS also visited facilities in Europe, including Red Bull Salzburg and Hoffenheim.

‘We also researched the latest trends in the workplace and education sectors, and were able to use our extensive knowledge of the sports hospitality sector,’ Debbie reveals. ‘It was important to draw on other industries to enhance the experience for everyone at the facility, whilst making sure Liverpool were getting the most up-to-date, modern environment.

‘We approached the project from several angles, initially through those best practice visits to other leading sport facilities with the client, to inform the architectural and operational aspects of the design. This naturally helps to tease out design and aesthetic preferences. But it was our understanding of LFC – a long-standing client – that enabled us to essentially refine our environmental brand interpretation of this unique Club into a form that was more privacy and professionally focused, which created a more technically driven, extremely confident, interior architectural language.’

So what makes the AXA facility unique? ‘Everything – from the limitations of the site, which resulted in the dynamic building form that pushes and pulls through the centre of the landscape, to the robust and confident use of materials, the eye-catching details where the building bleeds red, to the embedded graphic applications that tell the Club’s story. Everything about the design was developed specifically for LFC – and it feels that, when you are there, it could be no other club’s place of work.

We might not have been able to have our day out in Kirkby, but we can’t wait to see the fruits of this amazing facility’s labours when we can once again return to Anfield.

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