The construction of “Swimming Venue”, Rotterdam’s new public swimming pool, is a masterpiece of ingenuity in re-using an existing building – and a lesson on how the design of a public swimming pool can be part of a more global approach to revitalizing a whole district. A “Must”!
“Swimming Venue” in brief
Created by the Dutch firm Kraaijvanger Architects with Vincent van der Meulen as architectural project manager, the swimming pool opened in February 2018. The project was born from the need to replace the old local swimming pool which no longer met current health and safety standards.
The new public swimming pool is the first in Rotterdam with a 50m pool. The pool can be divided with a modular wall making it possible to host several swimming clubs at the same time. Another 25m pool is dedicated to recreational use and has a mobile floor, making it possible to host patients undergoing physical therapy and aquafitness sessions. Each pool has a specific design. The recreational pool recreates the atmosphere of public baths whereas the Olympic swimming pool is dedicated to competitive swimming with partially mobile bleachers for 1,000 spectators.
Bleachers in front of the Olympic pool
Aquafitness session in the recreational pool
At Provada 2018, the real estate professionals show, this major project won an StiB Award 2018 (for “Cities in Movement”) rewarding cities in transition, in the best urban revitalization project category.
A public swimming pool which re-uses the existing intelligently
Rather than to start from scratch with an expensive construction project, the swimming pool was inserted into an aging and partially vacant building which was renovated to house it. Project architect Joost Esschendal explains the 4 reasons which led to this somewhat original decision.
1. To conserve collective memory
In the Fifties, the old building was a hospital. It subsequently became one of the city’s administrative centers which issued driving licenses and recorded births. District residents have many fond memories of it!
The pool frontage inherits from the old building
2. To provide a local service
To replace the old public swimming pool without hustling the daily lives of its users, the decision was taken to renovate an old building, as other possible sites were some way away. The old building is connected to public transport (subway and bus) and close to a much-used shopping area.
3. To conserve visual identity
Rooted in the local landscape, the old building’s frontage and architecture stand out. Its strong visual identity was conserved during the restoration and is an integral part of the design of the new swimming pool, with slight modifications to external doors and windows and adaptations to nearby streets.
4. To capitalize on existing opportunities
It was easy to use the height of the ceilings and the frontages of the old building which significantly reduced pool construction costs. The distance between its two main wings was ideal for two pools separated by a platform and a glass wall.
Enlivening the district by the pool design
This project does not only aim to replace an obsolete swimming pool – it also aims to enliven a whole district! Rotterdam is renovating its southern district, called Hart van Zuid, with new buildings. The pool design places both pools on the first floor. The ground floor on the street side is used for new shops, restaurants, terraces and administrative services, thus attracting more visitors.
The new cafeteria welcomes swimmers for a relaxing break
The very attractively designed Olympic pool can host major sporting events, like the Netherlands/Russia international water polo match. The presence of a new Olympic pool boosts Rotterdam’s international visibility and attracts more tourists.
Rotterdam’s public swimming pool is a case study in the renovation of existing buildings when initiating a new project. Do you want to learn about other cases and discuss with public pool professionals? Come to the Commercial Pools Village at Piscine Global Europe 2018!
Our thanks to Ronald Schlundt Bodien and Joost Esschendal from Kraaijvanger Architects for their contribution.
Photo credit: Ronald Tilleman