‘Guðlaug Baths’ designed by Basalt Architects is open to the public, democratic, a community favourite space that has a free entry. This Testament is a positive effect for single architectural intervention which enables and encourages interaction with the ocean and the natural elements. This congregation spot is sought after for its health benefits & healing power.
Snuggled into a rocky breakwater barrier that runs along the langiSandur beach in Akranes we find the Guðlaug baths by basalt architects on Iceland’s west coast. This bathing facility stretches over an area of a hundred-meter square.
The project’s design by Basalt Architects was inspired by the naturally occurring pools in the seawater. The architects explored the full potential of the site’s geographical assets and the ancient history of geothermal bathing. These pools are formed around the rocky bases on the beach as the tides flow in and out.
The initiative of this project was funded by the memorial funds whose role was to enrich the community lifestyle. The further funds were received by the township authorities and the government. The brief of this architectural project was extremely simple that stated a hot pool placed anywhere by the beach.
This rocky coastline shelters the sports ground from the north Atlantic Ocean. On the north side of the bath, we find the soccer stadium which is an exposed concrete structure. The stadium provides shelter from the cold northern winds.
This design proposal by basalt architects moves more towards functionality as it also suggests re-purposing the stadium’s underbelly to include changing rooms, a cafe, and a storage facility which was a fantastic opportunity presented to house the future development for the beach sustainably and cost-effectively.
These baths inspired by the old Public bath facility play an extremely essential role to create a recreational facility around the beach. This project is also built upon Iceland’s ancient geothermal bathing tradition and the structure pays homage to the circular shape of historic predecessors, however, the form of the structure is unique to the existing site conditions.
The piping hot water is accessed either by drilling or it might rise to the surface of the earth as the result of the movement of the tectonic plates. It acts as a gathering point for Ocean swimmers who need a prior warmup session.
In terms of zoning, this structure is designed as a triple tire structure. Each tier revolves around a monolithic rock. The topmost tier is a viewing or an observation deck which is inspired by the bow of the boat. The middle tier is the main pool which is semi-sheltered from prevailing weather by the observation deck above and surrounded by a magnificent wall that is geometric in nature.
Filled up by the overflowing water of the main pool we find the lowest tier of the beach pool which is cooler in nature, it also allows the sea swimmers to adjust between the extremely cold ocean waters and the hot pool in the second tier. Paving its way from the Deildartunguhver hot springs in Europe, untreated geothermal water is channeled.
Executing a design construction on a beach without hitting the solid bedrock is for sure an engineering concern. Providing a safe shelter was the primary design concern for the architects. This region is well known for brutal Atlantic storms which are capable enough to thrust the boulders from the sea and deposit them on the pedestrian pathways. Thus, any material typology that can withstand these lateral forces is scarce.
The construction of this project involves the usage of marine-grade concrete to resist the intense lateral forces of the ocean waves. Before the approval, a sufficient amount of testing was done. It involved galvanized steel as well as corten, to see if the structure could resist nature’s wrath.
Owing to the constant tidal movements and sand foundations, despite being an extremely challenging situation, it called to use precast concrete elements to limit time and ensure quality. The timber from work finish used is in significance to the old fishing boats that were once an essential part of towns seafaring history.
At times of high tide, this design allows users to experience the explosive power of ocean water under the feet whereas during the low tides a significant stretch of beach is available. The architects designed this project to promote the public health of the region by bolstering the area’s potential for outdoor recreational activities and to meet the requirements of present and future users.
The langiSandur beach is the only natural bathing beach in today’s urbanscape and the only beach which has achieved the blue flag certification. No two visits to this structure can ever be the same, as the tides, the light, and the weather conditions change every moment giving a new experience to the visitors.
Not only this is a popular outdoor recreation for locals but also a hidden gem to the visitors. The breathtaking view from the pool comprises the city skyline across the Ocean and the Faxaflói bay.