Copenhagen’s harbour is undergoing a transformation from an industrial and transportation junction into the city’s cultural and social center. The Harbour Bath design emerged out of a desire to extend the surrounding park onto the water while also adhering to practical needs of public accessibility, safety and programmatic demands. The Harbour Bath realizes the transition from land to water as a terraced landscape. A handful of important factors distinguish the Harbour Bath from a more traditional swimming hall:
People go to the harbour bath in the way that people go to the beach rather than the swimming hall. Not necessarily to exercise, but primarily to socialise, play, enjoy the sun, look at girls/guys. This means that not only should the water be able to accommodate more interactive and playful activities than the focused (and lonesome) swimming back an forth but the land should also be geared towards a more accommodating and generous environment. Therefor, the harbour bath acts more as a public place with spaces to gather and interact.
In a swimming hall you have land, and have to design the pools. Here we have water and have to design the land. It’s a swimming hall in reverse. Since the land is what we have influence on (as architects), it is in the interface between the two that we can create desirable conditions. In a way reinterpreting the water that is there, by adding land.
The Harbour Bath is open to the public – but for security reasons the lifeguards have to be able to control the amount of bathers. With the given water area an equivalent swimming hall would be able to accommodate 600 people. The previous harbour bath allowed for only half. By increasing the land areas but maintaining the water area within the security limit, we can extend the capacity to 600 by allowing people to chill in the sun while resting from their aquatic activities.
The harbour bath has become - with its location in the center of the harbour - a symbol of the presence of leisure and water culture in the heart of the city. Visible from ‘the main land’ and the nearby Langebro (long bridge) it is an icon of the new possibilities the reclaimed harbour offers for contemporary urban life.
When you go to the beach in Denmark or on holidays you seek out exotic landscapes: The wide open beach, the intimate lagoon, the rocky shore with cliffs and islands to can jump from, the calm water or the big waves, the sand in the surf where the water is shallow and you can build sand castles. Rather than imitating the indoor swim hall the Harbour Bath could offer an urban harbour landscape with dry-docks, cranes, piers, boat ramps, buoys, playgrounds and pontoons.
The Harbour Bath also meets the desires of contemporary thought in sustainability. It is constructed of renewable indigenous wood from scandanavian forests and is easily removable, as it is built upon floating pontoons. Again, unlike a swimming hall, the Harbor Bath consumes very little utility energy for operation and maintainence: it is instead dependent upon the exertion of human energy.
IPC/IAKS Distinction 2007
IOC/IAKS Award 2007
Copenhagen Commune Prize 2004
European Prize for Best Urban Public Space 2004
COLLABORATORS: PLOT, BIG, Birch og Krogboe, CC Design
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