A shell cradled by the waves
Maria Giulia Zunino
Noelle Hoeppe - ADAGP photographer
In Arras, a town in northern France where traces of a mediaeval past and former glory as a centre of tapestry production stand side by side with more contemporary attractions, visitors invariably stop to gaze at a spectacular glass and stone wave silhouetted against the sky.
The wave, behind which can be glimpsed a large iridescent sphere, is the façade of the new Aquarena aquatic complex created by Alain Sarfati, a designer who can boast more than forty years of experience in France and abroad and is renowned for his work as an architect (through his practice Sarea), educator and public works consultant. Located in the avenue leading to the Nature Museum and close to the UNESCO-recognised world heritage citadel, this major new city landmark conveys the idea of a giant shell cradled by the rhythm of the sea while guarding a treasure, its pearl. It is a place designed to revive body and soul, where users can seek temporary respite from the stress of their everyday lives.
Clearly visible when arriving in Arras from the bridge over the river Scarpe, Aquarena is much more than a highly equipped public swimming pool, it is a dreamlike aquatic centre where users can fully experience the pleasure of immersing themselves in water. Organised according to a scenic and metaphorical pathway made of forms, materials, light and music, the 4,800 square metre complex includes a sports zone, a children’s play area, an equipped fitness space and a spa.
From the external façade, the wave rolls in through the large windows and spreads out across the ceilings of the large space housing the six-lane swimming pool, the leisure pools of various designs and depths, the children’s pool with a winding waterslide and the play area populated by benevolent monsters. In the more secluded area of the “pearl”, it is transformed into a golden dome, a kind of fairytale flower enclosing the spa area.
The natural and artificial lighting illuminates the ever-changing, rippled surface of the wave, which in turn is reflected in the water and ceramic floor tiles from Casalgrande Padana.
Reproducing the unique look and feel of a clamshell or rock, the entire floor is covered with Marte tiles from the Linea Granitogres line, the latest generation of fully-vitrified stoneware. Chosen in the colour Nero Acapulco (a vibrant, mottled black) and installed in various patterns, these tiles enhance the centre’s spatial characteristics and further accentuate the reflections of light.
While Sarfati’s choice was in part conceptual, it also took account of the technical and performance characteristics of ceramic tiles (resistance, ease of maintenance, impermeability, etc.) as well as the company’s exceptional green credentials in terms of its production process and environmental policy. No less importantly, he chose Casalgrande Padana for its ability to provide solutions to specific design needs.
This is particularly evident in the tiles chosen for the swimming pools, Elementi from the Padanagres line in the colour Mare and Landscape from the Padanaplus line in the sophisticated colour Tundra.
They are both fully-vitrified porcelain tile collections with a very low level of water absorption. The first line is unglazed with full-body colouring and an intrinsic roughness that guarantees a long-lasting non-slip coefficient. In the second glazed line, the mixture of glazes with fine corundum sand creates a smooth surface with a high slip coefficient ideal for barefoot areas.
Casalgrande Padana, Granitogres and Monopadana
12.5x12.5, 12.5x25, 20x20, 30x30
Nero Acapulco (Marte), Mare (Elementi), Tundra (Landscape)
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50÷60 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9A
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant