New outdoor baths must withstand harsh weather

There is a growing interest in outdoor bathing, and even in the cities old baths are being modernised or new ones being built. The baths have to satisfy the swimmers’ desire for comfort, but also withstand harsh weather.

Take a look at the award-winning fjord park in Aalborg and the unique Isfuglen clubhouse for winter bathers at Brøndby harbour outside Copenhagen.

An old dream finally came true in autumn 2020 for members of the Bifrost winter bathing club in Brøndby. That is when the winter bathers opened the unique new Isfuglen clubhouse/sauna, which has sweeping views of Køge Bay. In future, the winter bathers will be able to warm up in the clubhouse after taking a dip in the cold water outside. As the club writes on its website: “You have to immerse yourself in the water up to your chin before going into the sauna.”

But it’s not just the contrast between the icy water and the hot sauna that attracts winter bathers in Bifrost – the building is an experience in itself. Isfuglen is one of 26 projects nominated for the Danish Association of Architects’ prestigious ‘Arne of the Year’ award in 2021.

“There’s not a single right angle in the building, so the architects have really put us to the test,” says Balder Johansen.

He is CEO of the LOGIK & CO construction company which built Isfuglen. The building was designed by architects MATTERS. In addition to the sauna with panoramic views of the bay, the clubhouse has a kitchenette, changing facilities, a wooden deck, an outdoor shower and a jetty. And apart from the distinctive panoramic windows, there is one material used throughout: wood.

“Clubhouses for bathers and outdoor baths are buildings that must meet strict demands. They are exposed to salt water, wind and rain, and users who come in covered with water and salt. Wood is ideal for such environments because it is so flexible. It can bend in the wind and expand,” explains Balder Johansen, whose company has become expert in building clubhouses for bathers to meet the huge demand in the metropolitan area. LOGIK & CO has thus also made clubhouses for Helgoland on Amager, Hvidovre and Skodsborg.

>> Read more about Isfuglen

Healthy materials with no unnecessary chemicals

The bathing clubhouse in Brøndby harbour rests on concrete foundations, but is otherwise made of wood. From wood cladding and windboards to blown-in wood fibre insulation, and the durable, moisture-tolerant Troldtekt cement-bonded wood wool panels to provide good acoustics.

“We take great care to build sustainably. This means that we build using healthy natural materials and avoid unnecessary chemicals. We could have used pressure-treated wood on the outside in ignorance, but there’s really no need, because we can achieve the same durability through ‘constructive protection’. This means that we build in such a way that the water can always escape,” says Balder Johansen. He also stresses that he and LOGIK & CO really just build according to the traditions of high-quality Danish craftsmanship.

From outdated outdoor baths to award-winning fjord park

Durability, resilience and wood as a material were also central themes in the transformation of the outdoor baths in Aalborg into a 165,000 square metre fjord park.

“We felt that it was important for the facilities to be carefully balanced between land and water. The basic materials of raw concrete and wood 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, architect and partner at ADEPT.

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.

Award-winning project

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.

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.

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 excellent integration of landscape and architecture.

>> Read more about Vestre Fjordpark

Balder Johansen, daglig leder af byggefirmaet LOGIK & CO.