Timber Aquatics Centre completes in Paris for 2024 Olympic Games

Wood has been used to construct the swooping form of this indoor swimming pool, created by Dutch studio VenhoevenCS and French studio Ateliers 2/3/4 for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Located in the Saint-Denis district, the Aquatics Centre is the only permanent building constructed for the major sports event, which begins on 26 July 2024.

Exterior of the Aquatics Centre for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
The Aquatics Centre for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games has reached completion

VenhoevenCS and Ateliers 2/3/4 designed the Aquatics Centre to host diving and synchronised swimming competitions during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. It will also be used for the qualifying rounds for water polo and is set to be open for Paralympians to use as a training facility.

The swimming events will take place at the Paris La Défense Arena, which is being converted into a pool for the event.

Elevation of sports centre by VenhoevenCS and Ateliers 2/3/4
It has a structure made predominantly from timber. Photo by Simon Guesdon

The building has been developed to be multifunctional, ensuring it can be used as a neighbourhood sports venue after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

It is surrounded by green public space and linked to the Stade de France – the stadium that will be used for the games’ opening and closing ceremonies and athletics events – via a newly constructed bridge.

Exterior of Aquatics Centre for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
Green public space surrounds the building

“By gathering people around sports and leisure, the new Aquatics Centre creates a neighbourhood that builds bridges between cultures and districts whilst making use of the facilities and surrounding public spaces,” said the studios.

“There is also the literal connection, with a new pedestrian bridge that crosses the highway and connects the public spaces around Stade de France with the Aquatic Centre and the new heart of the future eco neighbourhood of La Plaine Saulnier.”

Swimming pool in Paris by VenhoevenCS and Ateliers 2/3/4
A curved roof sits above the pool

The Aquatics Centre’s structure is constructed predominantly from wood, left visible in areas including an 80-metre-long roof that swoops over the pool.

VenhoevenCS and Ateliers 2/3/4’s use of wood informed the implementation of a French sustainability law that requires all new public buildings to be built from at least 50 per cent timber or other natural materials.

“By using wood for this monumental structure, the design doubles the required minimum percentage of bio-sourced materials,” said VenhoevenCS and Ateliers 2/3/4.

Timber ceiling of the Aquatics Centre for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
The timber structure is left exposed

The curves of the roof create space for spectator stands on three sides of the pool, which will accommodate up to 5,000 people during the games. Each seat is made entirely from recycled plastic collected from the neighbourhood.

The pool itself is “modular and multifunctional” ensuring it can be adapted to host the different events during the games.

Another feature of the Aquatics Centre is a solar array on the roof, which the studios claim is “one of the biggest solar farms in France”.

It is expected to generate 20 per cent of all required electricity for the building. This forms part of a wider strategy for “90 per cent of the needed energy [to] be provided with renewable or recovered energy”, the team said.

Swimming pool spectator stands designed by VenhoevenCS and Ateliers 2/3/4
It accommodates 5,000 spectators

The landscape design includes 100 trees and shrubs, intended to help improve air quality in the area while encouraging more biodiversity at the site.

“It is a modern and innovative sports complex surrounded by abundant vegetation that will make a major contribution to creating a liveable and healthy city district for the people of Saint-Denis,” said VenhoevenCS and Ateliers 2/3/4.

Seating inside the Aquatics Centre for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
The seats are made from recycled plastic

“As designers, our aim was to create more with less – less volume, less materials, less energy, more connection, more inspiration to exercise, more nature, more flexibility, more beauty,” said project architect Cécilia Gross.

“The result is a driving force in the urban regeneration of Saint-Denis and Greater Paris, an architecture that is as sober as it is striking, but above all a place where everyone feels welcome.”

The Paris 2024 Olympic Games will take place from 26 Jul to 11 Aug. The Paralympics will take place after from the 28 Aug to 8 Sept. Ahead of the events, French jeweller Chaumet recently unveiled the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic medals, which will be inset with real pieces of the Eiffel Tower.

The Olympic torch has been created by French designer Mathieu Lehanneur, with a rippled surface informed by the River Seine.

The photography is by Salem Mostefaoui unless stated otherwise. 

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