Ten years ago, architect Branimir Medic did something he had never done before to get used to it: designing a swimming pool. This resulted in the Noorderparkbad in Amsterdam-Nord, which opened in 2015, a design that has been awarded several times. One year after opening, it was even named ‘the world’s most beautiful public swimming pool’ at the Piscine Global swimming pool fair in Lyon.
Medic (61) has lived in the Netherlands since 1990 and is one of the partners in Architekten Cie, a large office in Amsterdam with one hundred employees and a portfolio of international construction projects. The Croatian specialized in designing for high-density areas. Residential apartments, offices, master plans for urban areas, that kind. But once in a while, Medic says, he pampers himself with a “candy,” a small project to spend some time on another topic or culture. Then he participates in a competition for a museum in South Korea, a park in Prague, a cultural center in Taiwan or a swimming pool in his own city. Doing something different sometimes prevents you from becoming a robot, he says.
If you’ve never designed a pool before, how do you get started? As with any task, Medic explains: with extensive research. A basic understanding of where his designs will originate, including the place’s history and its significance to the public and the cultural environment, is what it’s all about. His credo: location-specific architecture.
In terms of architectural style, Noorderparkbad is in line with social housing in the garden cities of Amsterdam-Nord. An inviting pavilion in the park, with a large bath, but also with more intimate bathing areas, where the Muslim women from the neighborhood, for example, feel at home. At the request of Medic, artist Hugo Kaagman painted the walls of Amsterdam’s folk art: tattoo-like paintings.
As a child, Medic swam daily in the Adriatic. He has visited swimming pools in many places in the world. Upon request, he nominates his ten favorites.
10Pamukkale, hot springs
Branimir Medic: “Nature is truly one of the best architects. Take the hot springs in Pamukkale in western Turkey. Hot water from seventeen springs runs down a slope through a large number of terraces. The calcium carbonate in the water precipitates and has over time formed limestone terraces, with a stunningly beautiful result: bright blue water between the white terraces, a true gift from nature.Another natural phenomenon? Modra spilja, the sea-made blue cave on the west coast of the Croatian island of Bisevo.A beautiful cathedral of light.
“Tourism in Pamukkale has affected the calcification process. It is a problem for many attractions: tourists ruin everything.”
Leca da Palmeira (Portugal)
“Two saltwater basins between the cliffs on a coastal strip near Porto. It is a design from the sixties by the famous Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. Although I would call this pool 80 percent nature and 20 percent architecture. A small intervention with great effect. It is also really an interaction with nature: in 2004 the water had destroyed the pool and it needed to be restored.
“In my youth I lived on the Croatian coast – I was born in salt water. Swimming in seawater is so much more beautiful than in freshwater. The taste of salt water is better, fish and dolphins also swim in the sea, and even the small risk of open water is part of the charm for me. ”
“The body culture in Sydney is a bit exaggerated. It seems like everyone is swimming and surfing there. The townspeople have a lot of contact with the sea, which is very special. Of the many sea basins, Bondi Icebergs Club is the most famous. This bath has been around for over a hundred years and is open to the public. The large pool is not for children with inflatable boats, but actually for swimming. There is a small pool for children and lifeguards are always nearby.
“When I was in Sydney I went straight to Bondi Beach to swim. You will literally be touched by the sea in this pool; high waves regularly hit the edge and cause a swell in the pool. ”
“A wonderfully interesting spa in Vals, designed by Peter Zumthor, the Swiss architect known for his strict serenity. These thermal baths consist of a labyrinth of halls, filled with water from invisible sources and lots of indirect sunlight. Zumthor has covered the concrete structure with Valser gneiss, a locally extracted stone, in which he translated the DNA of the site into his design. man-made nature you can not come.
“I have visited the thermal baths. The weight of the natural stone ensures that you experience the power of the mountains. No, this is not a swimming pool for laps. It’s more of a water temple. Like all Zumthor buildings have something of a temple. ”
“A long time ago, I worked in the architectural firm KCAP. It has a branch in Zurich, high up in the city center. From the office you look out over the four hundred meter long river basin. In the summer we went there for lunch at lunchtime. Nice clean water, and a strong current. This freely accessible swimming pool is a real meeting place: young, old, students, office workers, everyone comes there. Such a bath is very good for the social cohesion of the city. This also applies, for example, to the mushroom pool in Beatrixparken in Amsterdam, designed in 1959 by the architect Aldo van Eyck. When the weather is good, it is filled with clean water every day in the summer. The sun heats up the water quickly and it’s always busy. “
In the Ruhr area, a freely accessible swimming pool was built on an old coking plant in Essen in 2001 by welding two sea containers together. Where coal was previously made to make coke, you can now swim in a post-industrial landscape.
“It is important to preserve some of the pride of the industrial age. In many places you see too much history disappear. The most beautiful thing about a city is the historical layers. If you remove all the roots, you lose your own story and become a tabula rasa, a blank board. Our architectural office is located in Amsterdam-Noord, close to the old NDSM quay. The former industrial complex now works really well as a cultural meeting place. ”
“A classic outdoor swimming pool next to the Rhone that fits in well with Lyon city center. It is also large: it is an Olympic-size pool, 50 by 21 meters. The then mayor had it built in the early 1960s to strengthen Lyon’s Olympic candidacy for the 1968 Games.
“It is nice that the swimming pool is open all year round. In winter, the water is heated to 27 degrees. I swam there. The pool is not pretty in the classic sense; in terms of architecture, it is very functionalist. What makes it so special is that you are part of the city while taking your turns. ”
“In Singapore, a park was built in 2010 on top of three two hundred meter high towers in a huge hotel with trees and a 150 meter swimming pool – yes really: 150 meters long.
“It is a design by the Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, which cost more than five billion euros. Extremely innovative and also daring, such a zeppelin with a layer of nature, hovering in the sky over skyscrapers. Such a tall city balcony completely changes the perception of the city. ”
“I have a personal connection with this bath. I come here regularly and my son got his swimming diplomas here. The building has something romantic, with its beautiful construction and gallery. It was built in the late nineteenth century as a cycling school. It was converted into a swimming pool in 1912. It happened with minimal intervention, the water basin is located on the floor on the ground floor, so you have to go up a flight of stairs to enter the pool. “It’s the building’s DNA. It’s the great merit of the architect who turned that building into a swimming pool.”
1Costa Brava Clube
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
“The most spectacular pool I have ever been in. To begin with, the location is impressive: a high cliff that juts out into the sea overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It’s like standing on a tall ship, surrounded by water. The pool is located on top of the cliff and is filled with inflated seawater. I was there 25 years ago; never before had I seen such a successful combination of nature and architecture. It can be compared to the Greek monasteries carved into mountains: a building built into nature and nature built into architecture. The pool at the Costa Brava Clube gives you the feeling of being in harmony with nature. “
photos Photos Getty Images, Flickr Vision, Jeremy Mason McGraw, Lex van den Bosch, Imageselect