The Piscine des Amiraux (Amiraux swimming pool), one of the first public swimming pools of Paris, is hidden in a beautiful building on rue Hermann Lachapelle in the 18th district. This structure, built in the 1920s, is probably one of the most interesting and successful of French architect Henri Sauvage (1873-1932). It encompasses all the results of his research on sunlight and “good air” for housing projects. Its tiered shape enables every housing unit in the building to have a terrace and to enjoy natural lighting. Located in the heart of the pyramidal structure, the swimming pool benefits from natural overhead lighting thanks to the interior courtyard. Apart from its innovative typology, the particularities of the building are its pioneering structure (framework made of poles and reinforced concrete beams), its organization (to go from the entrance to the actual pool the visitors must go through the showers) and the complexity of its mechanism. The mechanical heating and ventilation system ensured a perfect water and air temperature and prevented condensation, which was a frequent issue in that type of programs. The Amiraux swimming pool was the first Parisian pool to have a water treatment system.
The whole building was created following Art Deco principles and implementing the visual characteristics of a liner: curved lines, balustrade, portholes, etc. Henri Sauvage gave great attention to the decor which combined concrete, enameled ceramic and easily cleanable materials to meet the hygienic concerns of the time. The successive increases in safety regulations and time are responsible for losing the innovative arrangements of the initial work and its subsequent beauty.
The first stage of our work consisted in “updating” the swimming pool to meet the contemporary needs. We have worked on its layout by reorganizing the front desk with the creation an elevator, reorganizing the showers, changing rooms and sanitary facilities to meet the current standards in terms of accessibility and to welcome school groups, and reorganizing the underground staff rooms.
We have then updated the technical operation of the swimming pool. We have reinforced and protected the existing structures, redone the watertightness of the pool and reimplemented the ventilation system, all of the latter following a High Quality Environmental approach. We have also implemented a whole new heating process, replacing the former boilers which were originally coal-fired. The new system has been conceived to be more energy-saving, less polluting, and less aggressive for the preservation of the building.
All these interventions have been made out of concern for preservation and to highlight cultural heritage. Chatillon Architectes decided to renovate the swimming pool as close as possible to its original state. The glass roof above the pool was re-established after many years of being concealed. The glass walls were rebuilt and upgraded (steel frames and double glazing), as well as the artificial lighting, especially the one at the bottom of the pool. The wall and floor coverings were restored to the 1930 state, in strict accordance with the original polychromy. The initial furniture, such as benches and balustrades, was repaired or recreated.
Chatillon Architectes’ project has allowed the Amiraux swimming pool to get its second wind, enabling the swimmers to appreciate the richness of the 20th century cultural heritage while making the most of the comfort provided by the contemporary installations.
Chatillon Architectes was founded in 1986 by François Chatillon and has grown to become a multidisciplinary team of 35 collaborators. The practice is divided into two sites, one in Ferney-Voltaire, near Geneva, and another one in Paris. Our experience, skills and resources enable us to undertake the renovation of existing buildings as well as the design of new ones along with the restoration or interior design of any type of project in France and abroad.
Architect François Chatillon, founder of the practice, is also heritage architect and Chief Architect of Historical Monuments. He was a teacher at Ecole de Chaillot for many years and is a member of the French Academy of Architecture.