Previous state:

In its early days, the 150-year-old bathing pond in the Austrian town of Horn was used for swimming, fish breeding as well as ice production in winter. Over the years new uses were added including boating and slides as well as ice skating and curling in the off-season. A second pool for water purification was constructed. Additionally, the lake served as a venue for cultural events like concerts and art exhibitions. At some point a seasonally run restaurant became part of the site. Generally, the swimming area has always been operated with paid access in a closed off part of the lake. Access was only possible during Summer season and employees were needed to ensure service. Since its inception, the lake has always been of big importance for the local population, being one of the major points of social interaction in the town. Across the years the facility became outdated both in its function as well as the appeal. Access on foot, by bike or wheelchair was not optimal and the recreational equipment lacked in attractivity and technical condition. Especially the entrances to the water have deteriorated and presented a risk as well as insufficient aid for elderly and disabled persons.

Aims and goals:

The main goals included the opening of the restricted swimming area to everyone all year round and to create appealing spaces for sports, play, culture, leisure and gastronomy. The area should become a new attractive quarter with a varied program of uses and good integration with the surroundings to attract locals and visitors. A crucial point was also to assure a high quality of water. Furthermore, the area should become more resilient to climatic changes and provide more green space in the town.

The lake was redesigned with open access for everyone without any entrance fee. The heart of the project are the spacious wooden decks, the connecting element between land and water. They provide easy access to the water body including a 100 meter swimming lane as well as plenty of space for sunbathing and relaxing. A unique lake stage provides space for cultural events. As a living material, the wood ages naturally, changes its color and “lives” with the lake. In addition, the entire district also benefits: gastronomic facilities (SEEDECK restaurant) and footpaths around the lake ensure a high frequency and vitalization of the quarter. As a green lung, the area provides the necessary cooling. Water fountains, existing and new trees and light-colored materials buffer intense heat waves. Semi-permeable surfaces allow for water retention during hard rains and cool the surroundings via evaporation. Thanks to the good cycle path connection and pedestrian-friendly accessibility, the project contributes to a more climate-friendly future.

Evaluation and assessment:

The City Lake was very well received by the residents of the city of Horn. The attendance is higher than expected, including many out of town visitors, which resulted in extensions to the changing and toilet facilities. Reportedly, due to the popularity of the lake, the demand for private pool construction in the area has diminished, which is a good sign in terms of resource efficiency. The feedback from users shows high satisfaction with the open character, especially the ability to swim at any time, before work or even during lunch break. The project was recognized with several awards in Austria and internationally and inspired other municipalities to pursue similar undertakings.

Location: Raabser Straße 36, 3580 Horn, Austria

Design year: 2020-2021

Year Completed: 2022


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