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.
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.”
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