New swimming centres must have wider appeal

Modern swimming centres have to satisfy many expectations – and accommodate the needs of elite swimmers, people wanting to take exercise, young families and wellness enthusiasts.

There is a risk of friction between the various user groups. But the design of the new Frederikssund Swimming Centre demonstrates that the difficult balancing act can be successful.

It still takes some imagination to see the Municipality of Frederikssund’s vision. The new Frederikssund Swimming Centre is as yet the only building in what will eventually become the Frederikssund Idrætsby sports district.

The district is located on a slope overlooking Sillebro Ådal, and will connect Frederikssund with the new Vinge district – soon to have its own suburban train station.

The new Frederikssund Swimming Centre and the future sports district are uniquely located, notes Niels Haugaard, co-owner of GPP Arkitekter and one of the architects who designed the swimming centre in cooperation with Bay Arch.

“The sports district is situated on a ridge. There will be outdoor sports fields on the flat top section, while the swimming centre and sports halls will exploit the sloping terrain,” he explains. The design of the swimming centre stands out from typical swimming centres in Denmark:

“We have built the swimming centre into the hill, making the most of the natural terrain. So when walking into the centre from the top of the site, you find yourself on the first floor. From a balcony in the foyer you can look down on the activities in the swimming pool, while also enjoying the beautiful view of the valley through the panoramic windows,” Niels Haugaard explains.


However, the biggest challenge during the construction of Frederikssund Swimming Centre was not building on a slope, but designing a modern swimming centre that fulfils a range of different needs:

“A general trend in public works projects is the desire to accommodate the needs of many different users at once. For example, for schools to also serve as after-school care centres or leisure clubs. This requirement is also evident in new swimming centre projects. The centres have to offer multiple leisure alternatives, to create synergies and encourage as many people as possible to join in,” explains Niels Haugaard.

This trend has been recognised by the Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities, which published its “What makes for a functional swimming centre?” analysis in 2018. Shortly after publication of the analysis, development consultant Jakob Færch pointed out that the design of swimming centres has been changing in recent years, to make the centres attractive to more people:

“The usage patterns and exercise habits of Danes have changed a lot over the past 20-30 years, so the way many Danish swimming centres are designed is outdated. We’re seeing growth in water sports, for example, and those who practise them want to use swimming centres for their winter training and water safety courses. Elite swimmers want to do weight training on the pool edge, and for wellness enthusiasts, it is essential to have calm and a chance to stimulate the senses. That’s why we focus on ways of embracing new activities in the centres and pools,” he said.

The Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities is involved in developing facilities that address current challenges in the leisure sector – due in part to changes in the sports habits of Danes.

One of the key conclusions in the foundation’s analysis is that one in three swimming centre users feels that other users impinge on their own activities, leading to lower satisfaction. The criticism is particularly aimed at multifunctional pools, where many people compete for the same space and there is no clear division between various activities. One solution is therefore to make pools that are flexible – that can be adapted to different needs.

Diversity in the design

Frederikssund Swimming Centre caters to the needs of all the various user groups. One area where this is evident is in the organisation of the changing rooms, notes Niels Haugaard:

“In the past, there were two large changing rooms, one for men and one for women. However, if you want to accommodate many different types of users, you need other changing facilities. We therefore also have changing rooms for small groups and family changing rooms, as well as individual changing booths for users who want privacy,” he explains.

The swimming centre also accommodates a variety of user situations:

“There is, of course, a large pool for elite swimming and swimming lessons. And there’s also a children’s and exercise pool and a slide. We even have an area with no pool. We call it the ‘dry land’ area. It caters for people doing exercises out of the water, spectators at water sports, or events such as children’s birthday parties,” he explains.

Finally, a baby and wellness pool has been installed in a niche adjacent to the large swimming pool:

“Our focus here has been on creating a more intimate atmosphere, with lower ceilings and slightly darker colours, but still with views of the valley through panoramic windows,” says Niels Haugaard.

Having many users demands good acoustics

Swimming centres generally present a challenge when it comes to creating good acoustics.

“Swimming pools are characterised by having lots of hard surfaces – concrete and tiled floors and walls. This can lead to really bad acoustics. We’ve therefore chosen to install Troldtekt panels in the colour natural wood on the walls of the main hall,” explains Niels Haugaard. He notes that the panels also serve another important function.

“Troldtekt natural wood panels have a warm glow, which contrasts well with the colder concrete and metal surfaces. It’s a general theme in Frederikssund Swimming Centre that we’ve tried to create contrasts between warm and cold materials. Even on the outside, where the copper-coloured aluminium panels provide a warm and elegant contrast to the colder concrete,” he says.

A black Troldtekt acoustic ceiling with integrated LED lighting forms a beautiful starry sky above the wellness pool, which also offers unobstructed views to the north.

And in the foyer – as in the main hall – Troldtekt natural wood panels have been used to regulate the acoustics.

>> Read more about Frederikssund Swimming Centre here

FACTS: Swimming centre users and what they want

The Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities outlined the typical swimming centre users and their different needs in its analysis.


  • Space
  • Undisturbed swimming
  • Socialising with others

Elite swimmers:

  • Precise measurements for equipment and lanes
  • Training on the pool edge
  • Timekeeping sensors

Wellness enthusiasts:

  • Sensuous impressions
  • Temperature changes
  • Transition between inside and outside

Novice swimmers:

  • Safety
  • Different water depths
  • Warm water

Water sports people:

  • A clear overview
  • Flexibility
  • Safe conditions

Playful bathers:

  • Room to romp
  • Separate pools
  • Variation

Source: The Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities

Niels Haugaard, architect and co-owner of GPP Arkitekter.