the Luzhniki Water Sports Palace: a historical landmark

the luzhniki water sports palace in moscow was built on the site of the legendary luzhniki swimming pool which was visited by several generations of muscovites. the pool opened in 1956 and has hosted for nearly 60 years a wide range of  events, including the 1980 summer olympics. over the years, though, the outdoor pool fell into disrepair. its structures were falling apart due to the local weather conditions.

additionally, overtime, the pool became obsolete; new requirements for sports facilities meant that renovation needed to take place, including expansion and technological improvements. in 2014, a bid for the reconstruction of the building was announced and UNK’s proposal was awarded the contract.

luzhniki water sports palace in moscow
luzhniki water sports palace in moscow

EXPANDING THE ARCHITECTURE, PRESERVING THE HISTORY  

the renovation concept proposed by the team at UNK represents an evolutionary development of the water sports palace. preserving the overall stylistics and individual elements, the authors of the project increased the length and height of the building for additional volume. more precisely, the southern and northern walls – with their authentic elements and colonnades – have been extended.

the swimming pool building was once part of a large town-planning project. it was designed in accordance to a small sport arena that was later lengthened for the 1980 Olympics. this caused the pool to lose symmetry and balance. today, balance has been restored by increasing the length of the palace and eventually its total area (from 15,000 sqm to over 56,500 sqm). fortunately, with the gradual increase in building heights over the last 50 years, the water sports palace has become proportionate to its surroundings.

luzhniki water sports palace in moscow 7
the area of the complex has increased from 15,000 sqm to 56,500 sqm

UNK treated the work of previous architects (a.vlasov, i. rozhin, a. khryakov, n. ullas) with respect by stepping into their shoes and trying to understand how they would have designed the building today. it was important to preserve the authenticity of luzhniki and to do that, many elements were digitized and recreated. the colonnades under the stands were revisited, historical bas-reliefs were restored and placed inside while their duplicates – scaled according to the new dimensions of the building – appeared on the façades. 

luzhniki water sports palace in moscow 5
the historical quality of the building is preserved, and modern touches added

from swimming pool to full-blown waterpark complex 

the pool is partially open thanks to one segment of the roof that slides. meanwhile, the transparent façades create a visual connection between the interior and the street. to keep up with the rhythm of modernity and the needs of residents, UNK expanded the pool infrastructure by adding an underground parking lot, locker rooms, cafes, and a shopping mall. three additional sports pools were also built: a 50 m swimming pool and two cantilevered 25 m training pools.

in addition to the pool, the project includes a large water park area with training rooms on each side and a spa. using BIM technologies, the water park is integrated into the multi-story building and cuts through the space in different planes. seven slides, one of which bends right into the central atrium, were designed – allowing the sound of people sliding down the tube to stand out for visitors. the complex also includes a new wave pool for surfers to practice. 

luzhniki water sports palace in moscow 6
art objects stand tall near the sports palace

eventually, the pool became a place for training,  entertainment and aesthetic appreciation. the architects wanted every visitor of the palace to feel like a pro athlete. therefore, the interiors of the complex combine the sports and leisure functions to the greatest extent possible. on the other hand, driving along the metro bridge, one can appreciate the scale of the palace, see the bubble windows of the attic, and admire the bas-reliefs that decorate its walls. 

with all these new additions, the sports water palace can now hold up to 3,000 people at a time and up to 1,000 in the water park. 

luzhniki water sports palace in moscow 2
detail of the ‘bubble’ windows

UNK expands 1950s swimming pool into a water sports complex in moscow
duplicates of historical bas-reliefs appear on the outside 

UNK expands 1950s swimming pool into a water sports complex in moscow
the waterpark complex is a vibrant feature that cuts through like a puzzle

luzhniki water sports palace in moscow 4
a host of modern features now shape the interior of the palace

UNK expands 1950s swimming pool into a water sports complex in moscow
three additional pools were added to accommodate more training and entertainment

luzhniki water sports palace in moscow 8
the swimming pool building was historically part of a local town-planning project

project info:

name: luzhniki water sports palace

year: 2014-2019

status: complete

area: 56,500 sqm

location: moscow, russia

designer: UNK

lead architect: yuliy borisov

head of interior design: julia tryaskina

designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom