The unity of colour, form, and functionality created by Behnisch Architekten of Stuttgart for Sportbad Friedrichshafen is rare indeed. Here, great gestures are just as important as small details. The idea of flowing transitions in a two-storey bathing and sauna landscape was skilfully implemented using tiles from Agrob Buchtal.
After the relocation of the trade fair to the nearby Friedrichshafen airport, an attractive sports, leisure and shopping area was created on the old trade fair grounds at Riedlepark. An essential part of this quarter is the Sportbad (sports pool), which serves as a family and wellness pool, but is also suitable for club and school sports.
The surrounding glass façades make the Sportbad Friedrichshafen recognisable from the outside as a bathing landscape that develops around a central inner courtyard. The division into a spacious bathing area with swimming pool and children’s pool on the ground floor and an “intimate”, well-structured upper floor with sauna, gastronomy and staff rooms is also easy to read. The idea of the rooms merging into one another on two floors is reflected in a quasi-moving architecture. The carefully composed ups and downs of the green roof areas with their cantilevered edges alone gives an idea of how important a holistic building concept was to the architects.
The appearance of the bathing world on the ground floor is characterised in particular by the high proportion of daylight, the spaciousness and the consistently sporty, fresh yet unobtrusive colour scheme. Bathers should be able to move freely between the open areas. Walls and ceilings appear in velvety fair-faced concrete or with warm wood cladding. All swimming pools and pool perimeters as well as the floors of all showers, changing rooms and access areas are finished with finely coordinated and precisely defined Agrob Buchtal tile coverings.
An essential link for the seamless transitions between the individual bathing areas are the porcelain stoneware floor tiles of the Trias series from Agrob Buchtal, which are uniformly finished in zinc grey. They were used in two formats: as a filigree 50 by 50mm mosaic and as 300 by 600mm tiles. The square 50 by 50mm mosaic opens up an interesting design dialogue with the round mosaic from Agrob Buchtal’s Loop series, thus interpreting the well-known term “squaring the circle” in a quasi architectural way: All warming benches are covered with round mosaic not least because a specific advantage of this material is that it clings directionlessly and homogeneously to such curved structures like a ceramic tailor-made suit.
Integrated circle design
Round Loop series mosaic also decorates the walls and floor of the children’s pool. In order to intuitively convey to the little ones the increasing depth of water, the floor has an even colour gradient from aqua blue light to aqua blue over a length of 3 metres. The architects opted for round mosaics not only because this material is particularly suitable for cladding curved structures, but also because circles play a key role in the building concept of gentle transitions.
As a recurring design element, circles have a significant influence on the general appearance of the sports pool: in addition to round columns, skylights and luminaires, there are also acoustic ceilings with round perforations. Even the inscriptions and the screen-printed window panes for privacy reasons consistently pick up the geometric shape of the circle.
With regard to formats and locations, floor tiles from the Trias series by Agrob Buchtal were also used in the sauna area of the upper floor. The only difference to the ground floor is the slightly darker iron ore colour which, together with the generally warmer and earthier canon of colours, creates a cosy room atmosphere. The architects composed the experience showers with great attention to detail: they were also executed with a round mosaic (20mm diameter) from the Loop series in a specially designed colour gradient from coral red to bronze metallic to dark violet, specially produced by Agrob Buchtal for this project. This differentiated dramaturgy not only conveys the aesthetic enjoyment of a minimalist conceptual work of art, but also provides the subtle transition between hot saunas and refreshing showers, supported by the curved walls.
The Sportbad Friedrichshafen is an exemplar of the strong emotional effect of ceramic wall and floor tiles. The great variety of colours, shapes, and formats in this project is never an end in itself, but plays a key role in a sensual, holistic composition forming a successful symbiosis of unobtrusive creativity and architectural stringency. The whole is here more than the sum of its parts and makes the Sportbad Friedrichshafen a model for unpretentious, but at the same time memorable, architecture.