As a rule, water parks aren’t known for their architectural beauty. Tube slides and massive wave pools tend to define them. But Water Park Aqualagon, an elegant, intricately constructed aquatic centre near Disneyland Paris, offers more than just a place to do laps: The lakeside facility, designed by Jacques Ferrier Architecture, unfolds like a giant work of origami, leading visitors – including non-paying walkers who simply want to amble along its terraces – through a variety of environments that include waterfalls, hanging gardens and impressive views in all directions.
“Our [building] offers a new experience to visitors exploring this built environment,” the architecture firm says. “The structure presents a stunning vantage point over the inside of the aquatic park and offers spectacular views of Villages Nature [the larger theme park in which it sits] and the wider landscape.”
That landscape, the designers note, is relatively flat, making Aqualagon, which rises to a maximum height of 35 metres, a “beacon” in the area. Its apex is a transparent dome that caps overlapping layers of variously sized glass panels. The transparent facades flood the interior with natural light, while the dome allows swimmers to see the sky from the pool below.
To get to the pool, visitors enter the main entrance hall from a large forecourt connected to the larger Villages Nature campus, then move down a long corridor to the change rooms and the aquatic area. The pool zone consists of a large expanse of water dotted with islands of varying sizes. This “archipelago” extends outside into a lagoon, blurring the boundary between interior and exterior.
According to the architects, the direction of the winds and the path of the sun determined the layout of the park, which is powered by geothermal energy and boasts a water-recycling system. To protect it from cold northeasterly winds and to make the most of cool breezes in warm weather, the water zone opens toward the west.
Above and around the aquatic area, the various levels of the building house sun lounges, restaurants and planted terraces. A promenade that starts at ground level and wraps around the building as it ascends to the top is open to the public. There is also an elevator to the topmost viewing areas.
“All the elements of the project participate in creating a sense of spectacle that serves to heighten the experience of the aquatic activities of the park,” say the architects. “The remarkable ecosystem established by the planted terraces forms an instructive path.”