Enclosed in a modernist block. Water Factory in Szczecin

A new facility combining sport, education and culture has opened in Szczecin. The Water Factory is a modern facility which, in addition to providing entertainment, will also provide ecological and scientific education. The inhabitants had to wait a long time for its completion, but it was worth it. The Water Factory is a finalist in the World Architecture Festival 2024 competition.

A competition to design the building was organised as early as 2016. In 2018, planning permission was granted for its construction, with completion in November 2023. The architectural designers are Dr. Ing. Architect Andrzej Truszczynski and M.Sc. Architect Paweł Kobierzewski. The architects were faced with a difficult task related to the Local Plan, which was prepared for a much larger investment, the size of which corresponds to the Suntago aquapark near Mszczonów.

As planners, we noticed that the facility to be built on the site of the former swimming baths was surrounded on three sides by high-rise housing estates. Most of the residents used this space as a wild park – a green path, especially as there was a beautiful lime avenue running through the middle of the site. We decided that instead of creating one consolidated building volume, we would break it into two wings by running a footbridge through the middle of it. In this way, instead of taking this space away from the residents of the surrounding blocks, we created an inclusive public space. Alinear park open to all has been created,” explain the project’s authors.

Opening up the central part of the plot to pedestrians influenced the final form of the building, which became a metaphor for Szczecin. Like the city, a ‘river’ flows through the centre, breaking up the rectilinear arrangements of streets, avenues and roundabouts.

The aforementioned assumptions of the local plan necessitated the construction of a much larger facility than was envisaged by the feasibility study and acroeconomic analyses. The solution to this problem was the decision of the Mayor of the City, Piotr Krzystek, to make up the missing space by attaching part of the Education Centre to Akwapark. In the Mayor’s original vision, this cultural facility was to be an empty hall, which would be filled with exhibits in later stages.

The concept for the Water Factory evolved. The architects decided to create a facility guided by the idea of a ‘whirlpool of knowledge’, i.e. an arrangement of knowledge presented to the public through architecture. The Education Centre planned inside, on a programme level, has been prepared with all users in mind, regardless of education or age. The rooms are arranged on six levels.

We have called the space a ‘vortex of knowledge’, a spiral down which we travel along gentle walkways. Thanks to the trust of the investor and the Mayor of Szczecin, we were able to comprehensively develop the entire education zone, which offers a range of possibilities for learning through play,” explain the architects.

The characteristic element of the ‘whirlpool of knowledge’ in the Education Centre is not only a skylight, but suspended from the roof structure, the world’s largest model of the water molecule H2O. Inside the oxygen atom is an auditorium that can accommodate up to 50 people.

The building is innovative in many respects, both in terms of the attractions inside the building and in terms of the materials and technologies used. One of the highlights, for example, is the use of skylights made of ETFE foil ‘cushions’, which transmit UVB radiation – so that the interior of the aquapark will not only allow sunbathing, but also natural vegetation and noise reduction. For the first time, the ‘cushions’ are equipped with prints that, by changing the inflation, will reduce the amount of sunlight entering the interior, protecting the building from overheating.

Also new is the possibility of descending to the technical level below the pool, which is normally inaccessible. With the help of animations, descriptions and 3D mapping, the Water Factory will enable visitors to learn about all the processes of water treatment, energy extraction and exchange or water heating.

photo source: tkholding

The general designer of the facility is TKHolding – Architecture – BIM – VR Truszczyński Kobierzewski Sp. z o.o. from Mysłowice

Read also: Szczecin | Facade | Modernism | Minimalism | Sport | whiteMAD on Instagram

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