Sportbad Friedrichshafen: a subtle synthesis of the arts

The unity of colour, form and functionality which can be experienced in this project of Behnisch Architekten (Stuttgart) is rare in architecture. Great gestures are just as important there as small details. The idea of flowing transitions in a two-storey bathing and sauna landscape was skilfully implemented not least with tiles from the brands Agrob Buchtal and Jasba.

After the relocation of the trade fair to the nearby airport, an attractive sports and leisure area was created on the old fair grounds at Riedlepark in addition to a shopping centre. Its diverse range of popular and competitive sports includes a dancing school, a karate school and a multifunctional hall. The latter serves primarily as a venue for sporting events as well as for the home games of VfB Friedrichshafen in the 1st Volleyball Bundesliga and the Champions League. The sports pool, which was opened in June 2019 and sees itself as a family and wellness pool, but is also suitable for club and school sports, is located right between the shopping centre and the sports area. It presents itself as an inviting, elegant new building with filigree details, which appears as a self-confident centre in a heterogeneous environment.

Flowing (bathing) landscape

The surrounding glass facades make the Sportbad Friedrichshafen recognizable already from the outside as a bathing landscape which 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, catering and staff rooms is also easy to read. The idea of the rooms fluently 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 projecting edges alone give an idea of how important a holistic building concept was to the architects.

Sporty fresh bathing world

The appearance of the bathing world on the ground floor is characterized in particular by the high proportion of daylight, the spaciousness and the consistently sporty, fresh and yet unobtrusive colours. The walls and ceilings appear in velvety fair-faced concrete or with warm wood cladding. All swimming pools and pool surrounds as well as the floors of all showers, changing rooms and access areas are provided with finely coordinated and precisely defined tile coverings of the brand Agrob Buchtal.

The essential link for the seamless transitions between the individual bathing areas are the porcelain stoneware floor tiles of the Trias series, which are uniformly finished in zinc grey. They were used in two formats: as a filigree 5 x 5 cm mosaic and as 30 x 60 cm tiles. This larger format was laid in free bond above all in the changing rooms as well as in the access and rest zones. The mosaic format also realized with ceramic tiles of the brand Agrob Buchtal can be found around the swimming pools and in the wet areas. On the one hand, because it reliably meets the requirements of slip resistance class R11/B and on the other hand, because connections to other components such as drains, columns, gutters etc. or drainage areas can be realized more easily and aesthetically with this small format. In addition, the square 5 x 5 cm 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 an architectural way. All heated benches are covered with round mosaics not least because a specific advantage of this material is that it clings directionlessly and homogeneously to such curved structures like a tailor-made suit.

Security and intimacy in the sauna area

With regard to formats and locations, the floor tiles of the Trias series of Agrob Buchtal were used identically in the sauna area of the upper floor as in the bathing landscape on the ground floor. The only difference is the slightly darker colour iron ore, which, together with the generally warmer and earthier range of colours, creates a cosy room atmosphere. The architects composed the experience showers with great attention to details: they were also executed with round mosaics (2 cm diameter) from the Loop series in a specially designed colour gradient from coral-red to bronze-metallic to dark violet, produced by Agrob Buchtal especially 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 sea steam bath offers another, likewise unmistakable colour world. Square 2 x 2 cm mosaics of the Amano series of the brand Jasba were used there. With the colours anthracite and pure blue as well as watercolour-like, glossy surfaces, this ceramic wall covering makes atmospheric reference to the underwater world of the nearby Lake Constance.

Colour, form and function as a unit

The Sportbad Friedrichshafen is a showcase example of how strong the emotional effect of ceramic wall and floor tiles can be. The great variety of colours, forms and formats in this project is never an end in itself, but always part of a sensuous holistic overall composition, which lives not least from details that are initially hardly noticeable. Instead of using standard off-the-shelf stainless steel panels, the architects wanted to use tiles of different colours to create a homogeneous appearance. After cutting out the numerals using water jet technology, the parts were reassembled, pointed and integrated as "ceramic inlays" with a casual naturalness - one of many proofs for the successful symbiosis of unobtrusive creativity and architectural stringency.