Floating on the land

New York, 30.09.2013


Located in Neydens, France, Vitam'Parc is a 50,000 square meter tourism destination that is part spa, part sports center, and part shopping mall. Its New Age offerings include: meditation rooms, climbing walls, a water park with various indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a spa health center, hotel, restaurants and a shopping area with an anchor supermarket. There are a variety of aquatic exercise programs, organized children’s games and even a “laser labyrinth” where kids can play at being a cat burglar, snaking their way between the beams.


For a project of this scale, transparent materials are essential to minimize its visual impact on the landscape and to bring light inside its cavernous aquatic spaces. Founded in Barcelona in 1967, L35 Arquitectos are specialists in destination shopping and leisure projects of this type; and they have built up a portfolio in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Based in Gersthofen, Germany, SEELE was responsible for design and construction of the roof. Having completed ETFE projects around the world for zoo pavilions, research centers, train stations, and, most prominently, Beijing’s Birds Nest Stadium, SEELE is now increasingly working in France where ETFE is becoming popular.

Architects Luisa Badía and Néstor Soldate from L35 explain that ETFE was the ideal choice to tie the immense building into landscape. “The undulating forms remind us of the Salève mountain range,” they say. “Inside, the water slide area recreates an organic atmosphere with its geometry of sloping planes and its vegetation, as if the hill located at the northern end of the site actually continued and extended right into the building.”

Green roofs blend the Center into the rural landscape while also helping to absorb rainwater, which is reused as landscape irrigation. Inside, swimmers and waterpark visitors experience a strong sense of the changing light, passing clouds, and vistas into the charming agricultural landscape. At night, the linear Aquatic Center glows against the sky, its ETFE canopy resting gently above the wood space frame and surrounding glass walls.

So far, L35 has used ETFE in two of projects: at Vitam’Parc and for the roof of the Islazul shopping center in Madrid—both pioneering ETFE applications in those regions. Luminosity and lightness of weight were key reasons for choosing ETFE. Vitam’Parc features two ETFE roof coverings: the roof of the Aquatic Centre and the skylight set in the green roof of the main building above the two-story climbing wall. The Aquatic Centre’s ETFE roof is supported by an intricate wooden form in a wave-like shape. The wood structure supports 53 ETFE cushions with a total surface area of 4,300 m2. The cushions range in size up to 22 meters high and 3.5 meters wide and are inflated at a pressure of 300 Pa with two DG 100 T air pumps.[...]


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