Les Bains des Docks

The aquatic complex Les Bains des Docks (animation here), designed by the 2008 Prtizker-prize winning architect Jean Nouvelhas just opened in the historical Port of Le Havre. Inspired by theRoman thermal baths, the 5,000-square-metre complex offers an eerilybeautiful atmosphere of tranquility with the fantastic play of naturallight soothing the eyes, the masterful acoustics pleasing the ears, andthe pools and treatment areas taking care of the rest of the body.

Althoughthe main ‘colour’ of the complex is white, each section’s distinctatmosphere and hue is created by flowing water curtains, colour walls,and various textures and surface treatments. Each pool — lap-pool,children’s pool, whirlpools — is designed, shaped and lit to create aunique ‘private space’ for its specific users. These seemingly enclosedareas help minimize echoing and sound carriage — an annoying aspect ofmost aquatic centres – as do the varying-height floors and ceilings,and the acoustic false ceilings. Saunas, a hammam, cold and hot baths,and a spa area with hydro-massage and aquagym areas complete theatmosphere of pampering and care. An external lagoon makes the summeruse of the complex even more appealing.

TheDocks in the south end of the ancient port city of Le Havre are theoldest docks in France. The area is under massive revitalization withthe goal of making this a leisure, culture and shopping neighborhood.When completed, the area will include residences, a large park, atropical greenhouse, cinemas, bowling alleys and a shopping center,plus a Nouvel-designed Sea and Sustainable Development Centre to becompleted in 2011. The Sea Centre will be a showcase of shipping andsailing — exploring their economic and industrial significance as wellas their environmental impact on coasts and estuaries. It will be a120-meter-high metallic structure dominating the port and it willinclude exhibit areas, an aquarium, a meteorological station and arestaurant with panoramic, 360-degree views of Port of Le Havre.

Nouvel’swell-known public buildings literally span the world from New York toReykjavik, Dubai, Soul and Tangiers. Recent interesting buildingsinclude the bright-red research center for the maker of brakes forluxury cars, Brembo, in Italy. NouveI’s masterpiece for La Philharmonie de Paris will open in 2012. – Tuija Seipell

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