Monday, July 07, 2008

Kastrup Søbad

Kastrup Søbad in Copenhagen, Denmark by White arkitekter

Photographs are by Ole Haupt.

The short warm season in Northern Europe is embraced particularly strongly by the Danes, who flock outdoors when the weather invites them to do so. The sensation of sun and water against skin during the summer makes up for the more prevalent cold days the rest of the year. Given the desire to take advantage of these conditions, and the long stretches of waterfront in places like Copenhagen, a piece of architecture like the Kastrup Søbad should come as no surprise.

Designed by Fredrik Pettersson of White arkitekter, this bathing and diving pavilion 100 meters (325 feet) from the shoreline, rises from a height of 1 meter (3.25 feet) to 5 meters (16 feet) above water in a circular, clockwise curve. Visitors approach the pavilion via a straight walkway lined with benches and a number of access points to the water. At the end of the walkway they are ushered to the left and a series of curving steps that allows access to higher points along the curve and that act as tiers for seating. Once past the changing rooms, the high point affords diving platforms and views back to the shore.

By jutting into the water, the raised pavilion accomplishes a few things, namely an orientation towards the beach and the city beyond, a sense of enclosure or embrace along the otherwise open and linear shoreline that also buffers sea winds, and the creation of a recognizable landmark (or is that watermark?) for the area. This last is furthered by the addition of LED and upward-facing floodlights on the bridge and curving pavilion, respectively. There seems to be a certain desire to extend the usability of the pavilion (and the warm weather) as late as possible, to take advantage of the brief respite from cold.

The design is striking from above but equally so from the shore, primarily via the rise of the curve. This blend of simple (straight bridge and circular curve) and complex (tiering, construction, and surfacing) makes the pavilion at once legible and slowly revealing of hidden charms. Selective openings in the curving outer wall, especially the one aligned with the bridge that "reaches out" beyond the pavilion, further express this attempt at enriching the experience of the visitor, be they swimming or just walking.

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