Bellahøj Swimming Stadium
The Bellahøj Swimming Stadium in Denmark boasts a range of new swimming facilities, but also brings together all the activities around the complex thanks to its large roof.
There have been open-air swimming baths for many years at Bellahøj, originally with four pools, including a diving pool. The open-air pools are situated between the green area Bellahøj Mark and a number of sports halls. Opposite the pools is the Bellahøj housing estate, which in the 1950s became the first extremely modern high-rise block of flats in Scandinavia with up to ten-storey buildings. The blocks of flats stand out because of their number and attractive location in an area of green parkland.
The Bellahøj Swimming Stadium is finely scaled to the surrounding urban landscape, its large horizontal roof providing an architectural anchoring point between townscape and open landscape. From the open, green expanses of Bellahøj Mark, the green element becomes denser with the planting of trees and a more undulating and modulated landscape around the two remaining (smaller) outdoor pools.
Visually, the horizontal building also creates a greater sense of coherence between the urban and parkland spaces. For many years, a cluster of sports halls has been situated close to the open-air pools; the indoor swimming stadium is now closer to these sports halls. The synergies created by bringing together leisure and sports facilities at Bellahøj Swimming Stadium lead to heightened overall levels of activity, while the architecture opens up towards the immediate surroundings.
The new Bellahøj Swimming Stadium has international competition pools for staging swimming and diving events. It comprises a diving pool and a 50 m swimming pool, with seating for up to 1,000 spectators, and a teaching pool. The main entrance is placed on a pronounced corner with a lot of traffic, but the urbane entrance also invites people to spend time and to play on the steps and ramp area, which is stunningly lit at night.
At the entrance, you walk in beneath the large roof overhang and experience a wonderful sense of openness and transparency without superfluous elements or colours. Under the large roof, the terrain falls away, resulting in a higher glass façade and greater openness towards the open-air pools and the park. The building clearly expresses its functionality and its simple geometry.
The materials are primarily glass and concrete, with distinctive red stair rails. The roof’s steel lattice girders are visible throughout the building, and in the projecting façade they are partly exposed in the matt glass which, particularly in the evening, creates an urban mood.
The blue room
From the entrance, you move below to the changing facilities. Here, the interior design is simple yet strong, with coloured clothes lockers and homogenous tiled surfaces, concrete floors and white Troldtekt ceilings. The smooth surfaces are counterbalanced by decorative locker walls, and the acoustics are improved by the Troldtekt ceilings. There is a staggering sense of space in the building.
The size of the pools and the blueness of the water fill the space, combined with a sense of openness towards the green outdoors. No colours have been added – the natural hues of the materials have been allowed to remain to enhance the water’s blue colour which is reflected in the white Troldtekt ceiling panels.
A very attractive ‘detail’ is the transition between the interior and exterior environment. Between the horizontal water surface and the horizontal ceiling, the terrain moves around the building, creating a gently sloping façade line. The white-painted steel lattice girders in the ceiling create a filigree effect in the large, open space. The Troldtekt ceiling panels ensure comfortable acoustics for both swimmers and spectators in a space that is otherwise dominated by hard surfaces.
An architectural gem
A pleasing feature of the new swimming stadium in Bellahøj is its close links to the humane modernism which has inspired the entire Bellahøj district. The new complex is characterised by a simple, friendly and inviting design, both inside and out. The materials are allowed to speak their own language, while a powerful effect is achieved with few means.
It is the use of glass which has most impact, and the interplay between the horizontal surfaces and the undulating and sloping surfaces outside. The site has thus exerted considerable influence on the building, and you find yourself thinking that it could not have been much different. On the other hand, the building also has the potential to become a focal point for the Bellahøj district.