For the new sports, leisure and swimming complex at Svetice, located near Maksimir Park in the Croatian capital Zagreb, the architects have created a bold architectural statement that is impressive because it offers great flexibility of use, filigree looks, precise detailing and design consistency. Ceramic tiles from Agrob Buchtal have played a significant role in facilitating this eye-catching design to achieve its true potential.
Due to its picturesque coast and Mediterranean climate, water sports are very popular in Croatia. After the economic stagnation in the 80s and 90s, and much political upheaval, there was a great backlog of demand for appropriate infrastructure buildings for public and professional sports. As a result many new, modern sports halls and swimming baths have been built in most of the largest Croatian cities in the past few years.
A current and outstanding example is the Svetice sports, leisure and swimming complex located near Maksimir Park in the eastern part of the centre of the capital Zagreb. There, an architectural statement has been created which is impressive because of the great diversity of potential sporting uses, exquisitely-detailed filigree looks and sheer design consistency.
The building was designed by the Croatian/Swiss architectural duo of Vjera Bakić and Matthias Kulstrunk, following a competition that the pair won back in 2005.
Construction commenced in 2009, but was interrupted between 2011 to 2013, and was only finally completed in 2016. Used as a public swimming pool, but also as training facility for swimming and water polo, the various uses of the pool made great demands on the planning.
The concept developed by Vjera Bakić and Matthias Kulstrunk convinced the competition’s jury that it offered the ideal combination of functionality and aesthetics, which permitted the intended multiple use without sacrificing architectural integrity.
Intelligent planning and careful material selection
Corresponding to the gigantic volume, the basic construction of the building consists of a concrete base in storey height, which is spanned by an elegant steel construction.
Colours, formats and forms play an important part in adjusting the visual perception of this vast space. For the implementation of these elementary stylistic devices , the architects specified ceramic tiles from Agrob Buchtal for all wet areas.
The ChromaPlural system, an internationally recognised brand of swimming pool ceramics, offers components for ceramic wall and floor coverings that can be modularly combined and can thus help to support the cohesiveness of the overall architectural concept.
The resulting possibilities were creatively used and interpreted in the Zagreb project. The use of colour in architecture should not be arbitrary but differentiated and in line with the overall context. At Svetice, the architects have mastered this difficult task superbly.
For the division of the individual functional areas, diverse shades of the ChromaPlural system were used.
Stringent use of form as a universal element
As regards the tile format, on the other hand, the designers chose narrow strip tiles as a universally used element. The result of this design consistency is that the ceramic coverings act as omnipresent stylistic link across the entire building.
This was achieved in an expressive, but at the same time discreet and subtle manner, so that the tiles are not too dominant. The great care taken in the minute detailing of the design becomes apparent in the skilful use of ceramic special pieces, such as skirtings or profiled edgings. Here rounded corners and edges not only offer maximum safety and easiness of cleaning, but have an aesthetic effect and lend components, such as seats, an almost sculptural quality.
Further examples for the exactness of planning are heated benches, foot warming basins in the sauna, or soap dishes in the showers, which offer the visitors comfort and convenience each and every day.
The innovative HT (hydrophilic tiles) coating used on Agrob Buchtal’s ceramic tiles also offers useful benefits. Durably fired onto the glaze in the factory, HT lends the ceramics special characteristics: the tiles provided with it are extremely easy to clean, have an antibacterial effect without using chemical products for perfect hygiene and eliminate unwelcome odours as well as air pollutants.
With regard to the optimisation of operational processes, the architects’ primary objective was to create a building with an ‘inner logic’ and to express this by appropriate spatial relationships.
Thus, the place in front of the entrance, the entrance hall and the swimming pool are only separated by glass panes. This means that, from the bistro, users have an overview not only of the swimming pool and the area in front of the entrance but also of all the outdoor spaces.
If necessary, it is also possible to enter the grandstand via the publicly accessible promenade on the roof of the wellness area.
Extreme diversity of use
The wide visitor acceptance and the diversity of potential uses confirm that the original intention of creating a multi-functional building has been successfully realised. Over an average day amateur and professional swimmers, triathletes, water polo teams, women practising synchronised swimming and families meet in the generous and clearly laid out swimming bath.
On the roof terrace, featuring wooden decks and artificial turf, users can sunbath or play football, and the airy gallery with a view to the swimming pool and the large place in front of the entrance invites the visitors to enjoy a relaxing coffee and cake.
Clubs can use the training room on the basement floor, or guests can simply enjoy spending their leisure time relaxing in the wellness area with sauna, Turkish bath, whirlpool, separate outdoor zone and cold-water pool.
For families with children, a special area is provided which, besides a children’s pool optimised for swimming courses, offers an intimate outside section with massage jets for fun and games.
The great diversity of potential uses is rounded off by a beach volleyball playing field and table tennis tables; as well as robust ‘furniture’ constructed from concrete and oak that features in the public open-air spaces.
Qualified interior design and room layout result in an architectural ensemble which – in spite of its impressive size – is integrated in the urban environment so transparently and harmoniously that the swimming bath becomes an integral part of the city life. The visitors find their way intuitively, always have an overview and thus can enjoy the diverse possibilities offered without any difficulties.
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