Allez viens, on va à la piscine...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Jean Nouvel has designed a 12-pool swimming complex as part of a €31m masterplan to regenerate the docklands of Le Havre, on France’s Normandy coast. Called Les Bains des Docks, the public baths comprise an outdoor Olympic-size pool alongside a network of interconnected lagoon-style leisure pools.

‘It is a paradox, a building on a harbour scale, inspiring simplicity and robustness, but which betrays its complexity as soon as one penetrates its volumes. One enters a universe of whitness and depths.’ Jean Nouvel.

The 5,000-square-meter complex, inspired by the Roman thermal baths, offers a beautiful atmosphere of tranquility with the fantastic play of natural light soothing the eyes, the masterful acoustics pleasing the ears, and the pools and treatment areas taking care of the rest of the body. Although the main “color” of the complex is white, each section’s distinct atmosphere and hue is created by flowing water curtains, color walls, and various textures and surface treatments.

Each pool is designed, shaped and lit to create a unique “private space” for its specific users. These seemingly enclosed areas help minimize echoing and sound carriage – an annoying aspect of most aquatic centers — as do the varying-height floors and ceilings, and the acoustic false ceilings. Saunas, a hammam, cold and hot baths, and a spa area with hydro-massage and aqua gym areas complete the atmosphere of pampering and care.

Pictures by Clément Guillaume