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Gym Architecture from Denmark and France: Green and Gorgeous

Posted by
on January 28, 2016 at 01:20 PM

Gymnasiums have become central to contemporary lifestyles. In European cities with a rich architectural heritage, any new architectural intervention faces severe challenges. Architects need to ensure that the buildings they design, neither mindlessly ape nor visually disturb the heritage.  They need to be aesthetically compliant and technologically competent; as well as green and sustainable!! Gymnasiums, though having a presence historically, are a growing lifestyle demand. Here's a look at two recently designed gyms - Gammel Hellerup Gymnasium by BIG, in Denmark and Unique Gym by Jean Marc Rivet, in Paris - which are singular, beautiful and contemporary additions to these historical cityscapes.

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Gammel Hellerup Gymnasium by BIG, Denmark (Pics: 1-9)

The Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG) was commissioned by their Alma Mater, the Gammel Hellerup High School located in Hellerup, north of Copenhagen, for a couple of additions to the campus which included an arts and culture building and a gymnasium. The sports and multipurpose activities, which would so far take place at a location adjacent to but outside the main campus area, were decided to be shifted into the centre of the courtyard enclosed by the school buildings on all sides. To do away with the danger of blocking light and views across the quadrangle, BIG further decided to sink the 1100 sq m area of this building underground by a depth of 5 metres. The earth dug out for this purpose was used to berm up the slope created up the new arts and culture building, located adjacent to the sunken gym building, for the football fields to continue up to its roof. Thus, all the recreational facilities got lined up sequentially at the campus centre, enabling students to walk down from the underground gym hall across to the art classrooms and cafeteria and out through the exit at the street and also out on the greens overlooking the sports facilities..

The underground multipurpose gym hall is held up by concrete walls, with a flooring and roof of laminated timber beams. This roof, which is the icing on the cake, shows up above the ground with a signature curve sloping up and down to form a little woody hillock, making an inviting space for informal campus interactions, while also providing an interesting soft vaulted ceiling to the hall interior. Interestingly, the curvature of this roof is said to be derived from the mathematical equation of the trajectory of a handball when it is thrown! 

The decked surface of this woody curvy roof is furnished with whited enamel coated seats – a grove of little circular ones on one side and a big looped one on the other side. The little LED lights provided beneath these seats are the only light sources at night, but are enough to light up the entire roof and make a visually spectacular landscape. The complete rectangular edge of this roof is also designed to enable seating, with little perforations to let in sunlight to light up the hall interiors during daytime. The energy for electrification of the hall is provided by the solar panels placed around the existing buildings. All in all, BIG’s thoughtful design intervention raises a pretty, functionally efficient and sustainable toast to this Hellerup campus of yellow brick buildings of the1950s.

Unique Gym by Jean Marc Rivet, Paris (Pics: 10 - 15)

As its name suggests, this gymnasium in Saint Gilles, Paris designed by Jean Marc Rivet is truly unique in form and concept. Shaped like a cuboidal, contorted cannon, it catches the eye like something out of Alice in Wonderland would. The upper square tube of the cannon, sheathed in ribbed stainless steel, rests perpendicularly across twin angular wedges, tilted so that the large square window at the mouth of the cannon faces slightly upwards, positioned to be ready, not to shoot a fireball, but to receive maximal sunlight to light up the interiors during daytime and harness solar energy to electrify the premises at night.

Photovoltaic panels are also fitted on the wedge shaped base, which sports terraced gardens on its top, which insulates the interiors and provides fresh outdoor air to the gymmers. The bold grey and red door to the gym, located in a steely vestibule between the twin wedges completes the industrial aesthetic of the scheme. The horizontal is again emphasized by the ribbed effect of the brickwork on the base façade. This funkily conceptualised gym by Rivet doesn’t just contribute with its bold and eye-catching aesthetic, it’s a self-sustaining structure that makes a presence without invading the infrastructure and resources.

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