Snøhetta reimagines long-closed 1930s Norwegian harbour bath Knubben

Aerial rendering of topography-like structure of new Knubben harbour bath

Snøhetta has unveiled its plan to revive a traditional harbour bath in the city of Arendal, Norway, with a layered structure that looks like a topographical map of the area.

The Knubben bath, built in 1937 and closed a decade later, will be reimagined as a lively meeting place with multi-use facilities and an appearance that mimics the area’s natural rock formations.

Aerial rendering of topography-like structure of new Knubben harbour bath
Snøhetta’s structure is built from horizontal layers arranged to look like the contour lines of a map

The bath is situated on a 750-square-metre skerry just outside of Arendal, in the Galtesund strait between the islands of Tromøy and Hisøy.

Its original design was by architect Ketil Ugland and is described by Snøhetta as “one of the clearest examples of functionalistic architecture in Norway” and “a small yet elegant example of the modernist spirit”.

Diving platform framed by walls of new Knubben harbour bath facilities
The new Knubben will include both indoor and outdoor facilities

The Norwegian architecture firm had hoped to restore the facility, but a feasibility study led it to conclude that was not practical, as the site would need major modernisation.

Instead, Snøhetta’s proposal tries to honour the location with a new structure inspired by the landscape of the southeastern Norwegian coast and stone shaped by the last glacial period.

Diving platform and facilities at the new Knubben harbour bath at sunset
A new diving platform will replace the one demolished in the 1980s

“In returning the traditional harbour bath to its original glory, we realised that the volumetric response had to speak a different architectural language to honour the proud history of the 1930s bath,” Snøhetta project manager Marius Hauland Næss told Dezeen.

“As such, the concept for the addition is a landscape that builds on the existing skerry, which forms the base for the original bath.”

The new structure will sit on steel core piles and be built in horizontal layers that look like the contour lines on a map. Due to its coastal location, is likely to be built from concrete.

“We have a clear ambition to challenge materials in this project, since the compound sits in a fragile marine environment and finds itself at the mercy of ever-changing, rough weather conditions,” said Næss.

Diving platform and facilities at the new Knubben harbour bath at sunset
A new diving platform will replace the one demolished in the 1980s

Snøhetta’s plans for Knubben include a new diving platform to replace the one demolished in the 1980s.

The site will also include an open-air stage and amphitheatre for performances, as well as indoor areas for a restaurant and more intimate concerts.

People sitting on amphitheatre seating watching an open-air performance on the harbour
The site will include an amphitheatre for open-air performances

The original harbour bath boasted a 10-metre diving platform, a children’s pool, changing rooms and a kiosk. After its closure, Knubben briefly reopened as a jazz club in the 1960s.

“The facility has the potential to become a hybrid that fluidly combines culture, recreation, marine biology and learning, and a very locally anchored food experience,” said Næss.

“As an organism then, the compound works circularly to facilitate sustainable experiences on multiple fronts.”

Diving platform and skerry being battered by storms in Arundel harbour
The new design will fit with the landscape of the coastline

The Knubben bath is set to reopen in 2024.

Recent buildings by Snøhetta include the shimmering Le Monde Group Headquarters in Paris and the cloud-like El Paso Children’s Museum.

Imagery is by Snøhetta and Aesthetica Studio.

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