Ernst Ulrich Tillmanns

A day at the sea

Ernst Ulrich Tillmanns on constructing swimming pools


Imagine diving into cool, clear water under a blue sky on a warm summer’s day – as Die Fantastischen Vier (The Fantastic Four) describe in their song “Ein Tag am Meer (A day by the sea)”.

“Du spürst die Lebensenergie (You feel the energy of life)
Die durch dich durchfließt (That flows through you)
Das Leben wie noch nie in Harmonie und genießt (Life like never before in harmony and you enjoy it)
Es gibt nichts zu verbessern (There is nothing that can be improved)
Nichts was noch besser wär’ (Nothing that could be even better)
Außer dir im Jetzt und Hier (Except you in the here and now)
Und dem Tag am Meer (And the day at the sea)”

It is precisely this experience of a refreshing swim outdoors that Ernst Ulrich Tillmanns and his colleagues from 4a Architekten strive for when designing swimming pools. 4a Architects have already designed, built or renovated numerous swimming pools in Germany, Austria and Russia – and have won several prizes in the process.

Each swimming pool is different

“Good swimming pools combine efficient functionality with an inviting atmosphere,” says Ernst Ulrich Tillmanns, managing director of 4a Architects. “Every swimming pool is different. No matter whether you are building a modern wellness club from expensive materials or renovating a simple swimming pool from the 1960s. It is always possible to come up with a good design in which guests feel comfortable. First and foremost, the bathing facility’s functionality and the atmosphere have to be observed.

Essential design elements are light and colour, with which different areas can be accentuated.

Avoid slaughterhouses

In order for the building to fulfil its intended function perfectly, all areas must be connected and well organised. Guests should find their way around with ease, the available space must be used optimally.

“It is very important not to waste space and to ensure that the design is as transparent as possible. If you start planning early, you can save a lot of money,” says Ernst Ulrich Tillmanns. “The atmosphere of the building is just as important. Some older swimming pools, like slaughterhouses, have white tiles and therefore look rather cold. Instead, it’s better creating a warm and inviting feeling of wellness. Therefore, choosing the right materials is crucial.”

Wood and water

Ernst Ulrich Tillmanns has his favourite among the available materials: wood.

“There is a lot of water at ground level. Tiles and concrete are preferable there. But a metre above that, wood is a very good material, both for the walls and ceilings. It is a natural material that does not corrode, lends a great atmosphere and is resistant.”

In the form of ceiling tiles, wood also ensures pleasant acoustics, which is a very decisive factor for a swimming pool to become a success.

Nature at the pool

Ernst Ulrich Tillmanns speaks up for an architecture that brings nature into the interior of the building.

“Since we humans prefer swimming outdoors, it is important to create the impression that you are being active outdoors. This can be achieved with large glass surfaces that create a visual connection between the interior and exterior. Other options are light colours and wood wool to carry the outside atmosphere inside. We did this, for example, when renovating the Lochenbad, a smaller swimming pool from the 1970s. With bright green acoustic panels and large glass surfaces, it seems as if bathers are immersed in a natural landscape”.

The importance of acoustics

Wood wool should not only create a natural atmosphere. Ernst Ulrich Tillmanns emphasises the importance of acoustics in the pool area, especially when large glass surfaces are part of the room that is already dominated by hard surfaces.

“It is very important to use acoustic materials for the ceilings. People should be able to have fun and relax. A pool area with poor acoustics is bad for the brain. I once visited an older swimming pool with a large glass dome over the swimming pool area. The noise level was almost unbearable.”


He concludes: “If materials enable variety of design in addition to acoustic properties, this offers us architects great potential.

One example is the recently opened water and leisure park in Kusel. The coloured ceiling elements in particular lend the building a special charm. With their colour scheme, which is based on a colourful field of flowers, they lend the indoor pool a cheerful atmosphere and, last but not least, its own identity.”

We did this.



4a Architekten GmbH
Hallstrasse 25
D – 70376 Stuttgart


Troldtekt A/S
Sletvej 2A
DK – 8310 Tranbjerg J


All Photos: Vitalbad Kusel

Olaf Wiechers, Architekt
Büro für Architektur  +  Mediendienstleistungen
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D – 21629 Neu Wulmstorf


Johannes Bühlbecker
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Sports must come to people

Sports must come to people

Sports of the future in time of the Corona crisis

Anja Kirig

Crisis and Opportunity

Lucky are those who have carefully followed developments in the future of Sports and evolved with the trends! That may provide an advantage right now. For everyone else who has not yet delved into these, action is now the order of the day. One of the main trends for Sports in the future is: “Sports must come to people, not people to sports”.

Originally arising out of the mobility megatrend, it is especially true in times of increased immobility of the individual. Assuming you don’t want to lose customers, members, etc., and even want to gain and grow. There is also an opportunity in this crisis.

Sportverein 2030

Ideal for sports centers, the workbook “Sportverein 2030” is published by the Swabian Gymnastics Association, the Lower Saxony Gymnastics Association and the Swiss Gymnastics Association. The chapters on the subjects of mobility and digitalization or virtualization can be modified to better fit the current, altered conditions.

Perhaps this is how ideas come together to keep the members happy, to allow training to take place differently and privately, or maybe “just” in order to easily build community.

This may very well develop lasting concepts for Sports in the future too, because after the corona crisis, the megatrend of mobility will definitely be very present again!

Potential for networking

For businesses in the sports sector there are now many opportunities to reach the customer, especially through service and support of the individual athlete during their outdoor training or at home.

But networking for the immobilized sports community also offers potential despite restricted or suspended public life. What is needed are ideas and offers through which Sports-active society can move, network and help preserve their liveliness and vitality.

From online workout classes and live training offers, innovative systems such as the smart training Mirror or tracking apps like Strava, Sports’s future and mobile living have long made their way into people’s homes. There is also potential in the area of “occupational health management”, with the question: How can we bring healthy active living into the home office?

China in your hand

In China, and as a result of Covid-19, providers quickly adapted towards offering workouts streamed online, as well as new fitness equipment suited to life within our own four walls. According to reports, an entire fitness studio in Guangzhou went virtual with over one thousand members. Other streamed their workout service over WeChat.

Providers such as Peloton have also found success with this model for Sports in the future, offering among their range a €2,300 luxury indoor fitness bike alongside a membership and live courses including comprehensive services in a media library and online community, with the motto “connect, bond, inspire and grow stronger together”.

At home Yoga

The future of Sports can also be worn, if you like: with the Nadi X yoga pants by Wearable Experiments, movement can be kept up without a yoga studio, YouTube or Zoom courses.

These pants feature integrated sensors that detect the Yogi’s posture and guide the wearer by means of vibrations, when a position is not being held correctly.

Professional Sports: We are family

Just how sports events must be postponed and creatively solved, was shown by FC Schalke on March 14th. As the match against Borussia Dortmund was cancelled, the club allowed fans the chance to relive its “centennial derby” on Twitter. It was in November 2017 that Schalke recovered from an 0:4 deficit to 4:4 in extra time.

Nowadays, fans are included more than ever, it is no longer about front-row seats, a game or the club, but about a new experience and community culture. And that can also be achieved through community projects. Second division’s TV Hüttenberg offers Neighbourhood assistance, in which handball players are taking care of home shopping for people in quarantine or for those particularly at-risk, healthwise.

The technology-loving and networked Sports society

Regardless of whether for a sports club, company, Sports event provider or a professional sports, thanks to the networking megatrend, the numerous technological innovations and the sports community’s high willingness to use them, many new ways can be developed in the current situation of “bringing sports to people”. Sustainedly, too, even in a post-corona era.

We did this.

Companies involved & Links


Wearable X


Anja Kirig
Zukunfts- und Trendforschung
Schmidtbornstr. 2
D – 65934 Frankfurt/M




Wearable X




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Health Megatrend

Health counts

Our sports motifs are changing

by Anja Kirig

Health Megatrend

Health is defined as one of the twelve so-called megatrends. According to the Zukunftsinstitut, the other eleven are Connectivity, Gender Shift, Globalization, Individualization, Knowledge Culture, Mobility, Neo Ecology, New Work, Security, Silver Society, and Urbanization.

Health as a megatrend is undergoing an elementary change and will soon merge into a “quality of life” megatrend. In this context, it is already possible to observe how health as a sporting motif is changing and how the exercising society is being revitalised.

Inner balance as a sports motif

Health motivation is at the heart of this change. While nowadays primarily the physical aspects such as weight reduction, cardio training, back pain or general prophylaxis are at the centre of our efforts, in future the desire for holistic well-being in the sense of mental balance will increasingly take centre stage. This will benefit outdoor sports in particular. Moving outdoors, whether in a group or alone, is recognized as a new source of resilience.

Although the health experts have been explaining the healing effect of movement on the psyche for years, this advice has so far mostly reached people who where in a pathological condition. Those who did not like to out themselves as depressed, anxious, burned out, emotionally unstable etc. or were just temporarily unwell (honestly, who isn’t from time to time?) did not feel addressed. There was a gap between the “performance tracking trail swim bike run” community and the “Kundalini yoga sobriety” group in which these people did not find a sports community. The health megatrend is closing this gap.

Neither 12 steps nor 12 hours of ultra run

The demands on the individual, the complexity and speed of everyday life are perceived as increasingly challenging by many. The need for balance, more inner strength and stability is growing simultaneously. Research studies have shown that outdoor sports such as mountain biking, climbing, kayaking or year-round outdoor swimming can be powerful support for mental well-being. Especially women profit from this. And with new technologies such as E-Bikes nearly everybody can take part irrespective of age, sportiness, handicap etc.

Today’s health-oriented training groups are not concerned with fixed topics such as depression, anxiety, drugs or the achievement of new performance goals. Instead, they focus on increasing holistic well-being, general satisfaction, inner stability and resilience.

New communities between self-help and outdoor sports

These new communities are located between self-help and training groups, are both at the same time and none of them. They are mostly informal groups, act online and offline, representing all kinds of lifestyles and individuals for whom self-care is the focus of the activity. Motivation can be a mild or full-blown depression, menopause, stress at work, loneliness or a general desire for transformation.

#Runandtalk or Mountain for the Minds are already organized concepts in the UK. These services must not focus on diagnosis or potential diseases, but must take into account transformative added value. It is not the speed or the best time that counts, but the effect on the individual.

Reflect Nature & Mind

„Reflect Arts & Mind“ was the motto of a corresponding festival in Cornwall at the beginning of October. The art and communication event took place over 3 days at the tidal pool in Bude which is open all year round and counts active winter swimmers. The event focussed on the positive influences that the coast, the tidal pool and the landscape may have on people. But also the challenges of the rural areas were addressed. While the city dweller is lonely in the community, the people in the countryside feel cut off from infrastructure, access and technology. This is also a challenge for the inner stability of the individual.

Whether the motive is the hypercomplexity in everyday life or the lack of access, which creates the desire for more resilience and the establishment of more self-sufficiency: The megatrend health and its development will deeply transform the future outdoor sports.

Anja Kirig

Anja Kirig has been working as a trend researcher since 2005. Since 2014 she is intensively researching the changing sports and fitness perception.

Other focal points of her work are tourism and leisure, health and nutrition, sustainability and gender. The focus lies always on socio-cultural developments and their effects on lifestyles and the resulting new structures of need. 

Anja lives and works in Frankfurt/Main.


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