From outdated outdoor baths to award-winning fjord park

The outdoor baths on the shores of Limfjorden in Aalborg, Denmark, have been a recreational oasis since 1947. In 2017, the baths reopened after a major renovation, which has made the area attractive to many more users.

The modern outdoor baths are designed to make you want to come even if you don’t want to swim, according to Martin Nielsen, architect and partner at ADEPT. Vestre Fjordpark was among the finalists at the 2018 World Architecture Awards.

It took two years to transform the outdoor baths in Aalborg into a 165,000 square metre fjord park. At Vestre Fjordpark, the locals and visitors alike can dive into Limfjorden – in that respect, nothing has changed, but in addition they can now also play on the roofs, play ball games, go running, do parkour, go kayaking or just relax. This has made the park an attractive meeting place during the Danish summer.

“One of the goals of the renovation was to open up the facilities to more users. In an outdoor baths, the water naturally takes centre stage, but the aim was to turn the baths into a destination. A place you go to visit and see, even if you don’t necessarily want to participate in the activities. Setting the scene for a whole new way of experiencing the place, while incorporating a wealth of new activities, has therefore been key,” says Martin Nielsen, architect and partner at ADEPT.

The architects have worked closely with GHB Landskabsarkitekter to create Vestre Fjordpark. The park is divided into six areas with different functions. ‘Stranden’ and ‘Tangen’ are dedicated to swimming and water sports. ‘Kilen’ and ‘Fladen’ are open lawned areas for playing, running and ball games, while ‘Krattet’ and ‘Skoven’ are planted areas offering shelter from the wind and the weather. There are facilities for organised sports clubs, and for spontaneous visits.

“On a hot summer day, it looks like everyone – and all ages – have embraced the park. I think this is due to its location close to the city centre, which makes the area an extension of the urban space, yet in a natural setting,” says Martin Nielsen.


Materials that withstand wind and weather

In addition to the landscape, Vestre Fjordpark consists of a number of buildings: club rooms, terraces, bicycle parking and a café. Robust wooden paths link the area together, and all buildings are clad with strips of Canadian cedar wood. Troldtekt acoustic ceilings have been used in several places, where wood is also the dominant material.

“We felt that it was important for the facilities to be carefully balanced between land and water. Raw concrete and wood as the basic materials act as cohesive elements, holding the project together. And then there’s something about the contrast between the water, the landscape and the functions that calls for an unpolished materiality, yet with a high level of detailing,” says Martin Nielsen.

“Operation and maintenance have, of course, also been considered. All elements have to be able to withstand high-level use as well as harsh wind and weather conditions,” he adds.

Award-winning project

The enthusiasm of the outside world for Vestre Fjordpark resulted in an Architizer A+ Award, and the Municipality of Aalborg’s 2017 building award for good integration between the landscape and architecture. The outdoor baths were also among the nominees at the 2018 World Architecture Festival, held in Amsterdam in late November – and nominated for the World Architecture News Awards.

“It’s always great to win an architecture prize for a project. It’s recognition of the fact that our ideas along the way have led to the right outcome. But the way in which users have taken to Vestre Fjordpark is actually what has meant the most to us. What’s unique about the park is that it caters for so many different aspects of what recreation means to us as individuals. The project has really become as important to the area as it was designed to be,” says Martin Nielsen.

About Vestre Fjordpark

  • The Park is divided into six areas: Stranden, Tangen, Kilen, Fladen, Krattet and Skoven.
  • The bathing area boasts a 50-metre swimming pool and a deeper pool with diving boards, a diving tower and a climbing wall.
  • The park opened in summer 2017.
  • The construction costs were approx. DKK 70 million.
  • Several buildings feature natural wood Troldtekt panels with ultrafine structure.