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Lap pool with angular wooden ceiling

In Konstanz, a small university town on the German-Swiss border, the local aquatic centre was destroyed in a fire in 2015. A year later, German firm Behnisch Architekten won the competition for its redesign on the same site. Complete with two 25-metre swimming pools, a warm-water pool, a learning pool, diving facilities, a waterpark, and other amenities, the new complex, dubbed Schwaketenbad, is now the largest indoor leisure pool on Lake Constance.

Schwaketenbad by Behnisch Architekten as seen from above

Located near recreation areas in the Schwaketen and Mainau forests at the edge of the city, the site boasts close proximity to nature and adjacent sports facilities, which include a running track and basketball courts. Taking advantage of this verdant context, the building’s generous glass facades ensure unimpeded views of the surrounding greenery. Upon approach, the three angular roof planes, each located at different heights, render the building with a dynamic sculptural quality, creating inviting awnings that welcome the public inside.

Entrance to Schwaketenbad by Behnisch Architekten

The varied roof heights subtly demarcate the different zones within the open-concept interior, giving each pool its own sense of scale while encouraging interaction between the different spaces. The benefit of the varied heights is twofold, also creating bands of light that change the atmosphere as the sun streams in.

Entrance to Schwaketenbad by Behnisch Architekten

In the entranceway, the ceiling, made of slats of untreated spruce, fosters a sense of connection to the forested landscape. Past the reception desk and a long bay of vividly red change rooms, the arrangement of pools was custom-tailored to the site. The single-storey space is entirely barrier-free, ensuring ease of navigation and universal accessibility.

Red changeroom with wooden ceiling

At the southern end of the complex, an organically shaped recreational pool with a slide sits adjacent to a toddler pool with a playful polka-dotted pattern made of shiny blue mosaic tiles. A splash pad surrounded by red heated benches rounds out the recreational zone. The nearby cafeteria, furnished with vibrant green tables and a glowing array of orb-like light fixtures, features an adjoining terrace and a grassy area for sunbathers.

Children's pool at Schwaketenbad by Behnisch Architekten

Behind the children’s area, a spa-like quiet zone offers a space for relaxation, with a warm water pool, steam bath and infrared sauna, as well as lounge seating on the deck. Here, the ceiling dips down to create a more intimate setting, while also softening the acoustics.

Quiet area at Schwaketenbad by Behnisch Architekten

A 25-metre lap pool grounds the aquatic landscape at the building’s centre. To accommodate the diving facilities’ one-, three- and five-metre platforms, the ceilings are at their highest in this zone, which makes for an open and airy space filled with abundant natural light. Two massive waterslides, 100 and 123 metres in length, twist and turn before shooting users out at a glassed-in landing area on the building’s northern side.

Pool with diving boards

These glass partitions keep the quiet area and the slides acoustically separate, while also offering privacy for the learning pool, where swimming lessons take place, and an additional lap pool used for local swimming clubs.

Waterslide landing area with blue, green and yellow portals

Despite the energy needs of a building of this magnitude, Schwaketenbad is remarkably sustainable. Its roofscape is covered in PV modules, and most of the heat is derived from waste heat produced by the pools and shower wastewater. With these measures, the building saves an impressive 170 tonnes in annual carbon emissions.

Recreational pool at Schwaketenbad by Behnisch Architekten

With its diverse programs, Schwaketenbad offers something for everyone, from families and school groups to sports enthusiasts and those simply seeking a day of relaxation. And by leveraging its stunning open-concept spaces, the aquatic centre encourages interactions between these varied patrons without sacrificing the functionality of the individual zones.

An Inviting and Accessible Pool Complex in Southern Germany

Behnisch Architekten plays with scale and proportion to subtly delineate the various zones, which include everything from diving facilities to waterslides.

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