Bathed In Light

Lucem translucent concrete
Lucem translucent concrete at Obermaintherme in Bad Staffelstein, Bavaria

It may not, at first sight, appear obvious why this story is being featured in Diary of a Tile Addict. Although tiles make a contribution to the interior architecture, that is nothing out of the ordinary in a swimming pool, spa or wellness centre.  However the use of Lucem translucent concrete is something new and eye-catching. And I believe it could herald a new design direction for ceramic tiles going forward.

Over the past few years photoluminescent tiles have popped up at Cersaie and other shows; largely to provide unobtrusive emergency signage in the event of power outages or fires.  However, the technology exists to make semi-transparent, photoluminescent, tiles that can be artificially backlit or lit be the sun’s rays to create similar effects to that employed at Obermaintherme.  Just remember, you saw this design concept for the first time in Diary of a Tile Addict. And it is, in its own right, a simply stunning architectural form.

Lucem translucent concrete
Lucem translucent concrete at Obermaintherme in Bad Staffelstein, Bavaria

The public swimming pool Obermaintherme in Bad Staffelstein is Bavaria’s hottest and strongest saltwater emerging from a 1600 metres deep drilled spring. It offers more than 1.600 sq. metres of water surface and more than 15.000 sq. metres of sauna to aid relaxation and recovery.

Part of the renovation of the main bath hall, saw an upgrade of the internal pool. A new highlight has been designed with a cave in the shape of a salt crystal made with Lucem translucent concrete. This allows the new shell to light in different colours that then play across the water. This ambient lighting concept, along with a special sound system in the Cave that is integrated with the massage jet nozzles in the water, creates an overwhelming feeling of wellness. The light shines through the surface of the translucent concrete using more than two million fibre optics.

Lucem translucent concrete
Lucem translucent concrete at Obermaintherme in Bad Staffelstein, Bavaria

The architectural firm of Krieger Architekten Ingenieure saw this light transmitting concrete as a perfect material for this application. Translucent concrete is a very elegant and visually appealing material, with the ability to transmit the light behind through thousands of fibre optics embedded within the panels. As a result, the panels at first appear to be a heavy natural stone but, when lit, they shine and glow to look like a hovering light material. This material thus imbues the space with a striking dual ambiance.

The project manager of Krieger Architekten Ingenieure, Sonja Baumeister, and her team completely renewed the 170 sq. metre large pool with underwater-jets, a waterfall and a channel as a connection to an existing outside pool. As part of this renovation project, the architects designed for one area of this new pool a cave made of Lucem light concrete, spanning in the form of a stylized salt crystal about 7 by 5 metres. 200 sq. metres of light transmitting concrete were used for the cladding. Within the double wall construction on a steel frame there is a programmable LED lighting technology, that can be adjusted to different coloured mood lighting.

A world first salt water application for light transmitting concrete, the salt concentration in this pool is high, with brine from local wells having a salt content of 3.5%, comparable to seawater. Accordingly, the steel frame inside the Lucem installation had to be designed to be resistant to seawater. The steel frame was manufactured as a welded structure of steel frame, completely galvanized and then a layer thickness of 320 microns primer was applied. Finally, the frame was coated with at least 320 microns twice, after the installation on site.

Ingenieurgesellschaft Lievens und Partner were responsible for the detail planning of the new light transmitting concrete salt crystal object.

The RGB LEDs can be activated and controlled via software by computer or smartphone with lighting-scenarios ranging from static colours through changing colour gradient to moving colour play synchronously to music can be adjusted.

With the new light transmitting concrete salt crystals Lucem presents a unique world’s first design object. The impressive result shows the design potential for public pools today.

 Project: Renovation of Obermaintherme

Client: Zweckverband Thermalsolbad, Bad Staffelstein

Architect: Krieger Architekten Ingenieure, Velbert

Steelframe 3D Modelling: Lievens & Partner, Aachen

Structural Engineers: B. Walter IngenieurgesellschaftmbH, Aachen

Material: Lucem Line White in1,200 by 600 by 20mm

Panel cutting and installation: Efecto, Weitramsdorf

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