Swimming complex Svetice

Zagreb, Croatia
Architektenduo Vjera Bakic und Matthias Kulstrunk
Chroma, Plural

Swimming complex Svetice

Architectural statement thanks to systematic diversity

Not least thanks to picturesque coasts and the Mediterranean climate, water sports are very popular in Croatia. After the economic stagnation in the 1980s / 1990s and the phase of the political upheaval, there was a great backlog demand for appropriate infrastructure buildings for mass and professional sports. That is why new, modern sports swimming baths were built in almost all bigger cities of Croatia in the last years. A current and outstanding example is the sports, leisure and swimming complex Svetice in direct proximity to the Maksimir Park in the eastern part of the centre of the capital Zagreb. There, an architectural statement has been created which is impressive because of its great diversity of utilization, filigree look and design consistency.

The building was planned by the Croatian/Swiss architects duo Vjera Bakić and Matthias Kulstrunk, which had won the pertinent competition already in 2005. After the start of construction in 2009 and an interruption from 2011 to 2013, the project was completed in the year 2016. As public swimming pool, but also as training facility for swimming and water polo, the bath made great demands on the planning. The concept of Vjera Bakić and Matthias Kulstrunk convinced the jury by the combination of functionality and aesthetics, which ideally permitted the intended multiple use.

Corresponding to the gigantic space volume, the basic construction of the building consists of a concrete base in storey height, which is spanned by an elegant steel construction. Colours, formats and forms play an important part at the relativization and proportioning of the huge dimensions. For the implementation of these elementary stylistic devices of architecture, one chose ceramic tiles of AGROB BUCHTAL for all wet areas.

With the system ChromaPlural, this internationally well-known brand for swimming pool ceramics offers components for ceramic wall and floor coverings which can be modularly combined and thus support conclusive overall concepts. The resulting possibilities were creatively used and interpreted in the case of the project at Zagreb. The use of colour in architecture must not be arbitrary but differentiated and in line with the overall context. The planners mastered this task superbly. For the division of the individual functional areas, diverse shades of the above-mentioned system ChromaPlural were used.

As regards the format, on the other hand, one chose narrow strip tiles as universally used element. The result of this design consistency is that the ceramic coverings act as omnipresent stylistic link in the entire building - and that in such an expressive but at the same time discreet and subtle manner that they are not too dominant. Great care down to the last detail at the design becomes apparent in the skilful use of ceramic special pieces such as skirtings or profiled edgings: rounded corners and edges not only offer maximum safety and easiness of cleaning, but have an aesthetic effect and lend components such as seats almost sculptural qualities. Further examples for the exactness of planning are heated benches, foot warming basins in the sauna or soap dishes in the showers, which offer the visitors comfort and convenience every day.

The innovative Hytect coating of the ceramic tiles of AGROB BUCHTAL also offers useful advantages every day. Durably baked onto the glaze in the factory, Hytect lends the ceramics special characteristics: the tiles provided with it are extremely easy to clean, have an antibacterial effect without using chemical products for perfect hygiene and eliminate unwelcome odours as well as air pollutants.

With regard to the optimization of operational processes, the architects’ primary objective was to create a building with an “inner logic“ and to express this by appropriate spatial relationships. Thus, the place in front of the entrance, the entrance hall and the swimming pool are only separated by glass panes; from the bistro, one has an overview not only of the swimming pool and the place in front of the entrance but also of all outdoor areas. If necessary, it is also possible to enter the grandstand via the publicly accessible promenade on the roof of the wellness area.

The wide visitor acceptance and the diversity of utilization confirm that the intention of a multi-functional building has been successfully realized: in the course of the day, amateur and professional swimmers, triathletes, water polo teams, women practising synchronized swimming and families meet in the generous and clearly laid out swimming bath. On the roof terrace with wooden decks and artificial turf, one can enjoy a sunbath or play football, and the airy gallery with a view to the swimming pool and the large place in front of the entrance invites the visitors to coffee and cake. Clubs are using the training room on the basement floor, and guests simply spending their leisure time are relaxing in the wellness area with sauna, Turkish bath, whirlpool, separate outdoor zone and cold-water pool. For families with children, a special area is provided which, besides a children’s pool optimized for swimming courses, offers an intimate outside section with massage jets for fun and games. The great diversity of utilization is rounded off by a beach volleyball playing field, ping-pong tables as well as robust “furniture“ made of concrete and oak wood in the public areas of the open-air ground.

Qualified interior design and room layout result in an architectural ensemble which - in spite of its impressive size - is integrated in the urban environment so transparently and harmoniously that the swimming bath becomes an integral part of the city life. The visitors find their way intuitively, always have an overview and thus can enjoy the diverse possibilities offered without any problems. These advantages make the sports, leisure and swimming complex Svetice an outstanding project of this type in the entire Adriatic region.

Photographer: Marko Mihaljevic