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In the swim: for the second time in two years these architects have won a commendation for thoughtful civic sensibility.

Quintans Raya Crespo Architects won a competition held by the province of A Coruna (Corunna) in north-west Spain for indoor swimming pools to be set in small towns. They produced a type plan that could include not only the pool, but a small cafeteria, a gym, sauna and solarium. In each place, the generic had to be adapted to specificities of site, nowhere more so than at Pontedeume, where the site was very constricted, an old stone wall and a walnut tree had to be preserved, and floods from the nearby river had to be taken into account. (Pontedeume is at the head of the estuary of the Eume.)

But the basic approach was maintained. A concrete wall surrounds the main spaces and a large timber hat covers the pool hall. Courtyards penetrate the mass of accommodation, bringing daylight and greenery to the middle of the plan. Views out from the hall are always carefully controlled. Here at Pontedeume, the pool looks out over lawns to the river: water greets water. In an analogous way, the concrete wall greets the stone one that has been preserved as the main part of the street front.

Concrete, cedarwood and glass are virtually the only materials used. What really attracted the jury to the scheme was the way in which they have been used. For instance, instead of the slippery tile surfaces of the normal swimming pool, the water is surrounded by wood. Not only does daylight come in from the glass wall overlooking the river, it filters from the other side from thin courts, making what could have been a uni-directional space more complex.

There is a gentleness and civic generosity about the building and its siblings that made the jury believe that it should be commended, not just for itself, but for the whole programme. As yet, the ar+d awards do not recognize the input of clients, but all jurors were agreed that the authorities of A Coruna deserve congratulation.


Quintans Raya Crespo Architects, La Coruna

Project team

Carlos Quintans Elras, Cristobal Crespo Gonzalez, Antonio Raya de Blas
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Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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