Built by the architect Fritz Beblo from 1905, the Municipal Baths of Strasbourg are an emblematic place of the city. Very dear to its inhabitants, the building required both restoration, rehabilitation and the creation of new spaces in order to allow it to once again become a swimming pool anchored in its time and turned towards the future. This mission was entrusted to a consortium made up of Chatillon Architects, TNA Architects, Eiffage, Equalia and Quadriplus.
Located at the crossroads of the medieval city of Strasbourg and Neustadt, a district resulting from the extension of the city by the German Empire from 1870 to 1918, the municipal baths of Strasbourg opened their doors in 1908. The building, revolutionary for the time, manages to combine technical concrete and architectural eclecticism, a construction of both ancient and neo-regional inspiration. Located in the heart of the UNESCO perimeter, the building has been classified as a Historic Monument since 2017.
When it opened, it hosted a variety of facilities: indoor swimming pools, public showers, sauna, solarium and even a dog grooming area!
To carry out this delicate renovation mission, the City of Strasbourg, owner of the building, commissioned the SPL Deux-Rives which selected the consortium formed around Eiffage Construction Alsace, associated with the Chatillon Architectes agency which carried out the project. restoration and rehabilitation of the covered enclosure and emblematic interior spaces and to the TNA agency for the construction of new aquatic and sports equipment. The management of the new Baths will be carried out by the company Equalia.
The project is at the same time a project of restoration, of bringing up to standards and of adaptation of the places to new contemporary uses, while respecting this monument dear to the people of Strasbourg. The intervention had to reconcile several objectives: enhance the existing, restore certain elements and decorations that have disappeared or altered, make the building safe and accessible, renew all of the techniques and design new amenities expected for the users of this establishment. . In short, to anchor it in our time without giving up its formidable initial qualities.
“It is a building that does not leave you indifferent. When you visit it, there is a very clear poetic relationship to space, to light. He has a lot of charm. It is a construction of both ancient and neo-regional inspiration. This balance is fragile and must be preserved, ”explains François Chatillon, founder of the agency.
“We also wanted to offer new functions on the garden level and on the floors of the building wings, highlighting traces of the past, such as the marking of the old constructive framework deposited to allow the expansion or the linking of certain spaces ”, explains Antonin Gilles, architect director of the project for Chatillon Architects.
After two years of work, the Bains reopened to the public on November 8, 2021.
Reconcile multiple objectives
Operated throughout the XNUMXth century and very popular with Strasbourg residents, the Baths needed renovation capable of giving them a second life to allow everyone to return to them in excellent conditions. Adapt the establishment to contemporary standards and customs; improve access for different audiences (families, schools, the elderly, people with reduced mobility, etc.); promote more ecological exploitation; to propose a new offer of well-being: these were the objectives of this great project.
It was the renovation program that was subjected to the building, as it existed, and not the other way around. The first proposal consisted of a very careful restoration of the Baths, while maintaining a traditional swimming offer in the two existing pools. The project also offers essential improvements, such as connecting the two pool halls, which allows users to switch from large to small pool according to the desired activities, full accessibility of the site for people with reduced mobility, meticulous lighting of the new Baths, the creation of new vertical circulations to secure and facilitate the flow of visitors, as well as the creation of new interior and exterior spaces to enrich the offer on offer.
Contemporary restoration and fittings
While most of the spaces have been restored to recapture the atmosphere of the 1908 building while being modernized and adapted for contemporary use by Chatillon Architects, others have been created in areas requalified for new equipment by the agency.
TNA Architects. A series of stratigraphic soundings made it possible to rediscover the original colors: visitors to the Baths will discover, on their return to the premises, a whole new palette and a completely different light atmosphere than before the work. There are many vestiges from the time of construction: the Roman Baths are restored to their original marble, the colors of the cabins surrounding the pools have been restored, the rotunda regains its former glory, several taps are put back into service.
The teams of the Quadriplus design office have succeeded in achieving all the major technical objectives without altering the architecture of the building.
The ornaments, the moldings and the treatment of the elevations are revealed by a careful lighting. The two pools have been lit according to contemporary choices: LED ribbons are installed at the head of the cabins to emphasize their volumes and their perspective, modern ball pendant lights have been positioned where the old ceiling lights are located, the globes installed below -face of the mezzanines have been reinterpreted ... The old ventilation shafts on the ceilings of the basins now receive powerful lighting to illuminate the spaces in a uniform manner and emphasize the contrasts in the roughness of the concrete.
The technique was, as far as possible, moved to the attic. This is the case, for example, with new blowing installations which make it possible to regulate the thermal power of the pools. Other modifications are integrated harmoniously into the interstices of the building. The poles of the basin halls were thus thickened in order to pass the flows allowing to supply the emergency units and loudspeakers. The lower part of the windows which previously separated the large from the small pool (former male / female pools) has been removed to allow them to be linked. It is symbolized by the integration of a marble stone on the ground, visually testifying to the contemporary intervention, breaking with the surrounding period grounds.
The connection to the district heating network as well as the removal of old equipment made it possible to free up large volumes available for new programs. The high ceilings of the old boiler room made it possible to divide the space on two levels in order to allow the creation by TNA Architects of a sports hall, above, and a culinary workshop, below.
On the 1st floor of the Grand Bassin, a new wall-enclosed relaxation area with a hot drink bar was created by Chatillon Architects to offer a peaceful break. The design of the new herbal tea room was chosen to allow an architectural framing on the initial clock and to fit harmoniously into the existing architecture.
The ancient Roman Baths, symbols of the German hygienic tradition of the early XNUMXth century, have been restored. In some old abandoned technical spaces, the TNA Architects agency has built a jacuzzi, a salt cave and a sauna, installed in the old laundry room. This new offer is extended outside the walls, on the site of the old car park, thanks to the creation of an outdoor stainless steel relaxation pool and a sauna in the middle of a revegetated space. The whole constitutes a "well-being" package accessible alongside the classic swimming offer.
Environment and energy savings
Beyond the building's conservation objectives, one of the other major challenges of this project was to offer Les Bains a new modern building, more respectful of the environment, better insulated, and more energy efficient. The water treatment, renewal and heating system has been renovated, reducing the overall quantity of water consumed by 80% (from 850 to 150 liters per bather). Energy consumption is reduced by 41% thanks to the thermal insulation of the spaces to preserve the heat of the water. To better regulate energy losses, extra glazing has been installed inside the stained-glass windows, respecting their layout. With a view to improving user comfort and to reintroduce a bit of nature into the city, the old car park has been requalified. This mineral space has therefore been transformed into a plant space and will constitute a new island of freshness planted with trees and expanses of grass.
Safety and accessibility
The municipal baths renovation project made it possible to bring safety and accessibility standards up to a place that was no longer compatible with the needs of its time. Small and large pools are accessible to everyone for swimming. To this end, a new entrance dedicated to people with reduced mobility and to schools has been created on the ground floor, in the former unexploited moat, making it possible to welcome these audiences in a personalized way. The installation of new elevators, ramps and elevators now makes the Baths 100% accessible. Inside, the visitor trail has been completely redesigned to offer equipment adapted and reserved for these specific audiences (changing rooms, showers, toilets). The new school changing rooms, drawn like an ellipse in the ellipse, have been installed on the garden level, under the rotunda.
To adapt, make the Baths more fluid and bring them up to standard, five new staircases have been created according to a design designed to fit into the geometry of the building. Some cabins in the large basin have been cleverly adapted to provide more generous spaces on the beaches. The Baths are thus returned to Strasbourg residents but adapted to current uses, attentive to the safety, ecology and comfort of its occupants.
After the renovation of the swimming pool of the Admirals of Henri Sauvage in Paris, Chatillon Architects has once again succeeded in magnifying a masterpiece of XNUMXth century architecture, by responding to the new demands of our society.
Founded 35 years ago by François Chatillon, the Chatillon Architectes agency operates in the fields of new construction, renovation, restoration and interior design. The agency favors transformation over demolition, offering contemporary responses based on the history of the place. Quantity then gives way to economy in a desire to promote what already exists, and it is in part this philosophy that has enabled Chatillon Architects' achievements to be recognized on numerous occasions by national and international awards.
Visuals : © Cyrille Weiner