Paris 2024 Olympic Games: “It is by far the best swimming pool in France”, the Aquatic Center, greedy in activities, energy efficient

Paris 2024 Olympic Games: “It is by far the best swimming pool in France”, the Aquatic Center, greedy in activities, energy efficient

Le Centre aquatique olympique accueillera les épreuves de water-polo, natation synchronisée et plongeon. France Info – Jerome Val

The only major structure built for the Games, the Aquatic Center, inaugurated this Thursday in Saint-Denis, was also (and above all) designed for the post-Olympic period.

This is the little architectural marvel of Paris 2024, the only major building built for the event, 95% of the sites dedicated to the Olympic Games being already existing or temporary. Opposite the Stade de France, to which it is connected via a footbridge spanning the A1, a wooden aquatic center has emerged from the concrete to be officially inaugurated this Thursday, April 4.

Under its ample canopy undulating like a wave, diving, water polo and artistic swimming events will be held. On March 11, the divers had the honor of being the first to “test themselves” in real conditions.

The least we can say is that they were caught up in the atmosphere of the place: " We've been dreaming of this place for a long time. It reaches all our dreams. It’is by far the best swimming pool in France", exclaimed the Franco-British Gary Hunt.

Multiplicity of uses

Darling of champions, the Aquatic Center, located in the heart of the ZAC de la Plaine Saulnier and the result of ambitious specifications, is also aimed at the general public, in accordance with the market concession signed by the Métropole du Grand Paris (project owner) for the next fifteen years from 2025.

Do not oppose nature and the built environment. The two must communicate

"We said to ourselves from the start that we weren't making something just for the Games. The whole way we thought about the building is for the legacy, for the post-Olympic period. This swimming pool calls upon traditional know-how", testifies Cécilia Gross (VenhoevenCS), one of the two architects of the project alongside Laure Mériaud (Ateliers 2/3/4/), for whom a very contemporary question was posed: "Do not oppose nature and the built environment. The two must dialogue. Our great pride is that this building functions like an Arena, because it has a multiplicity of uses." 

Learning pools, climbing, paddle tennis, fitness, restaurant, outdoor 5-a-side football pitches… The universality of sport concentrated in a cocoon of water and greenery.

Energy savings

This holistic approach embraces the philosophy of the right measure. The Aquatic Center, its square, its gardens, its ramp and its crossing, were designed as a whole. Cécilia Gross has a mantra: "We must try to do better with less, because « we can no longer do things like before (at the Olympics)".

Namely, building the ephemeral and the spectacular at a high price, then the nothingness of exploitation behind it. It took six years of pugnacity to meet numerous challenges, particularly in terms of energy saving. In a neologism: being “aqua-responsible”.

In a swimming pool, what costs the most energy is stabilizing the air.

The tip: design an ultra-compact building. Responding to that of the “SDF”, the roof matches the necessary volume of the spaces of the Olympic Hall and minimizes the energy expenditure of the heated volume. Its all-wood structure, of Japanese inspiration, reduces a large part of CO2 emissions compared to steel and concrete.

It is covered with solar panels allowing 85% of the energy to come from renewable and recovered energies, and 50% of the water used to be recovered and reused. Outside, a 2,000 m2 media parking lot has been planted and cabled to the ground. The whole thing creates a beautiful living space. "In a swimming pool, what costs the most energy is stabilizing the air . It must always have the same degree of hydrometry", explains Cécilia Gross.

The Aquatic Center in figures

– 102 trees and shrubs planted to last
– 100% of land reused on site
– obtaining the BioCity label
– 85% recovery and renewable energy
– 50% water recovered and revalorized to the tune of 40%
– 5,000 m2 urban solar farm
– HQE label sports equipment level “exceptional”
Cécilia Gross (architect): VenhoevenCS is a collaborative architecture studio based in Amsterdam with a
visionary and socially engaged approach.
Laure Mériaud (architect): ATELIERS 2/3/4/is a French agency for architecture, urban planning, landscape, ;infrastructure, interior architecture
and design.
Manufacturer: Bouygues
Total cost of the works: 174 million euros.

Public close to the action

Other technical innovations, this time in the swimming pool. Water reduction on all floors. The depth of the diving pool was first adjusted according to the height of the latter (1.5 m, 3 m, 7.5 m, 10 m).

Then architects and engineers separated the water polo pool from the diving pool with two mobile docks (a 9 m walkway is required for the media space).

Designed to be modular and versatile, these two “walls” can also form a “temporary range” capable of hosting a podium, or even a concert or a show, in the “world of the next”.

5,000 spectators expected each day during the Games

During the Games, 5,000 spectators are expected every day at the heart of the excitement. Attendance can be reduced by half thanks to a temporary stand leaving room for other activities.

A detail that is not one: the compacted structure allows the public to be as close as possible to the events, flush with the water.

Remember 1924

A century ago, at the 1924 Paris Games, the French water polo team became the first French team sport selection to win an Olympic title, at a time when only 4 % of French people knew how to swim.

A hundred years later, in Seine-Saint-Denis, one in two children still cannot swim at ten years old. "Aiming for excellence for the public good in France means a lot to us", assures Laure Mériaud, like a buoy thrown to the future generations.

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