Sportplaza Mercator

Amsterdam, 2006

Sportplaza Mercator

News: June 11, 2014

Sportplaza Mercator published in GREEN magazine (TW)

‘Sportplaza Mercator’, GREEN magazine , June, 2014, issue No.29, p. 62-67  
Sportplaza Mercator published in GREEN magazine (TW)

News: March 13, 2013

Sportplaza Mercator on DEZEEN

Sportplaza Mercator on DEZEEN
Sportplaza Mercator on DEZEEN

Vision & Research: Sustainable Architecture

"a building is not a static, isolated object, but interacts with its environment as if it is a living organism"

Sustainable Architecture

De Baarsjes in Amsterdam is a multicultural neighborhood that is home to people from 129 different countries. Because living with different cultures in one neighborhood is not always easy, the city district wanted to boost community life. The city came up with the idea to transform an open air swimming pool into a building which combines swimming pools, a therapy pool, fitness, aerobics, sauna and steam bath, a party center, café and childcare. A KFC fast food restaurant was added to create low education jobs for the unemployed. Each individual element of this complex was meant to attract different target groups, so the entire population would be able to use it in the end. An extra design challenge was to create an invisible green building because people from the neighborhood wanted to keep the green character of the area.


The building was designed as a city – a society in miniature – inside a cave. The building is full of lines of sight and keyholes that offer perspectives on the various visitors, activities and cultures in the building. Sunlight penetrates deep into the building’s interior through all sorts of openings in the roof. Low windows frame the view of the street and the sun terrace. People can enjoy the facilities they came for, but they can also see many other activities, intriguing their interest and inspiring them to use these as well.


Today, with its green façades and roof, Sportplaza Mercator marks the start and end of the Rembrandtpark. From a distance, it seems like an overgrown fortress flanking and protecting the entrance to the 19th-century city. Glimpsed through the glass façade, a modern spa-style complex glistens, complete with swimming pools, fitness space, and restaurant and party facilities. The entrance is the departure hall that everyone uses and from which all can reach their destination.

Name:Sportplaza Mercator
Location:Jan van Galenstraat, Amsterdam (NL)
Program:competition, therapy, instruction and outdoor pools , fitness space, bathhouse, café-restaurant, party centre, childcare, fast food concession
Surface area:7,100 m2 gfa
Assignment:schematic design, design development, specifications, detail drawings and aesthetic direction
Client:Sportfondsenbad Nederland and Municipality of Amsterdam, De Baarsjes district
Team:Ton Venhoeven, Richèl Lubbers, Danny Esselman, Manfred Wansink, Jos-Willem van Oorschot, Erik de Vries, Thomas Flotmann, Peterine Arts

Copijn (facade and roof contractor), OKRA (landscape architects), Draaijer & Partners (projectmanagement), Pieters Bouwtechniek (construction), Herman de Groot Project Techniek and Hellebrekers Technieken (mechanical and electrical installations), LBP SIGHT (building physics), Aboma Keboma and Van Dijk Someren and partners (safety and health advice), Van Wijnen (general contractor), Giny Vos (artist)

Images:Luuk Kramer
Background Information


    The artwork ‘Korper in Korper’ by Giny Vos is light-art in the roof of the swimming pool, and refers to Plato’s story of the cave. Fata Morganas of mythological pictures may pop up while you’re swimming on the back, looking at the ceiling.

    Een bewegende lichtvlek tast als een zaklantaarn de wanden en het plafond in een zwembad af. Soms staat het zoeklicht trillend stil, het wordt groter, dan weer kleiner, versnelt en vertraagt, verdwijnt en duikt op een andere plaats weer op. Tegelijkertijd verschijnen er op verschillende plekken in het zwembad 3-dimensionale projecties van bruggen, constructies uit science fictionfilms en andere silhouetten. Beelden uit onze hedendaagse mythologie doemen op en verdwijnen weer.


    Sportplaza Mercator is conceived as a grotto in a stronghold. We tried to avoid all kinds of ethnic cultural references but used the language of mass culture with iconic imagery of Starwars, James Bond, Thunderbirds and Space Mountain from Disneyland and numerous other references from films. Apart from that, on a different level, it refers to Plato's grotto, sophisticated literature etc. But you do not have to understand those hidden layers of meaning to use or enjoy the building. It is conceived to give different people a different reason to like and understand it. On a philosophical level it refers to the theory of heterotopic spaces, developed by Michel Foucault. We use his theory to make a place where you can find different places and spheres that normally exclude one and other.
    Last but not least we were inspired by the example of Roman baths where political debate, body exercise and social life where combined in an attractive environment. These baths used the architectural principle of the city in a building. We transformed it into city in a grotto.


    The vertical garden is originally developed by Patrick Blanc. His vertical gardens have been applied in the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. For Sportplaza Mercator, a Dutch company called ‘Copijn’ (Utrecht) has further developed the concept. This product is called “the Wonderwall”. The wall consist of different layers. First there is a steel construction with its own foundation, attached to the roof construction of the building. The second layers is a physical separation wall between inside and outside. The third layer, which is attached on the steel construction is the ‘growing wall’, made of metal, plastic and a felt fleece with notches and small buckets. Every plant grows in its own bucket. Integrated in the growing wall is a rain and feeding system with hoses and sensors. Over 50 different kinds of plants, bushes and trees have been planted in the roofs and facades. Every wall has its own climate and demands therefore different kinds of plants.

    Study set

    Please find attached a study set with drawings of Sportplaza Mercator. For study purposes only.
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