In the present state of transition of the industrial harbor of Göteborg the establishment of Bathing Culture activities generates a form of prediction for the future of this particular setting.
Frihamnen, the industrial harbor of Gothenburg, is gradually losing its industrial character and is steadily becoming a new, central part of Göteborg, open to be discovered and adopted by the citizens.
The present state of transition, the traces of its former uses and the huge undefined spaces together make the area very attractive for the establishment and implementation of different kinds of cultural activities. Apart from polluted land and water, the heritage of this industrial port area is a series of fascinating functional objects and buildings and the spontaneous and fragile nature that somehow exists between asphalt, concrete and water.
For sustainable urban growth and the creation of a specific harbour park at Frihamnen it is necessary to preserve the memory of the site by attempting to intertwine with old structures, both physically and emotionally, the feeling and the qualities of the current state of ‚waitingʻ for new uses, buildings and temporary interventions.
Establishing bathing in this rough and hostile environment is, above all, a way to change the perception of it: creating intimate spaces, new leisure experiences and the opportunity for communication between different groups of people. Since water pollution does not allow, for the moment, direct bathing activities in the docks, the establishment of Bathing Culture activities will generate a form of prediction for the future of this particular setting.
Public baths were once an intense place for social gatherings in our cities. They were places not only for relaxation and sport but also for politics, discussion, business deals, eroticism, hedonism and crime. This has been lost in our cities and substituted with the more bleak and leisure-based public swimming pools and spas. Baths can be seen as a social space to meet people, spend time together and discuss life. The sensorial qualities of the baths provide us with a place where there is no competition, consumption or spectacle, but where the focus is purely on sharing spaces and thoughts, and enjoying and benefiting from the water.
In September 2014 raumlaborberlin asked people from all over Göteborg to participate in the building process during the first phase of Bathing Culture. In line with the idea of designing and building collectively in open processes thet arrived to the Jubilee Park with a mixed team of architects, carpenters, designers and a cook. During the open call week the building process had already started and raumlaborberlin’s team was about to finish the wooden piers along the water line. In all, 24 people with different professional backgrounds, ranging from students of design to artists and town planners, came to build with them and discuss the future potential of the site and the park.
The choice of materials enhances the intended dramaturgy for visitors to the bath. Cold and weathered metal on the outside, ready-mades from naval equipment, produce the sensation of something that could naturally belong to the harbor site. The wooden path with its pattern, the physical and visual connection between the different buildings, recall floating wood pieces along the shore.
The larch shingles of the sauna interior, made of thick veneer, are thin enough to react to the changes of temperature and humidity so that their shape changes in use. The warm space breathes with the visitors. The direction of the shingles’ pattern on the walls and ceiling creates at the same time an embracing space and a focus on the view out of the big window towards the silhouette of the cranes and the city center. This visual connection between the new intimate space inside the “hostile” harbor environment and the old city was from the beginning a crucial aspect for the choice of the site.