Fluidity as Motif

architectural office Sangrad + AVP
project Kayak and Canoe Club, Slavonski Brod, Croatia
written by Vera Grimmer


Complex creative processes are often based on some initial motif – a colour, a sound, a scent, a particular atmosphere, or an impressive image. For the designers of the kayak club on the Sava River bank in Slavonski Brod, that initial motif and catalyst was the almost archetypal image of people carrying a boat. In many ways, the fragile, longitudinal structure parallel to the flow of the river indeed acts as a metaphor for a boat, the fact that places it in the midst of modern tradition. The ambivalence of the boat’s solid closed hull and floating transparent deck, covered with a lightweight canopy, indicates the duality of the programme. The programme that is dedicated to daily kayaking activities was implemented pragmatically, according to the rules of execution of athletic functional units. On one side, the compact core is surrounded by a bright, two-storey gym area, and on the other, by a dark kayak storage, illuminated only by perforated portals. The kayak shed opens to a semienclosed courtyard where kayaks are prepared for use. The entire functional set of athletes’ daily activities is housed in a closed corpus clad in black cement panels of the ventilated façade. This compact one-storey base ends with a wall privacy screen – the symbol and sign of the entire design. The second part of the club’s programme, intended for socializing and active leisure of athletes, their guests and friends, is materialized in a completely different way. It is, in fact, a transparent pavilion mounted on a closed base. It houses two accommodation units for guest athletes as well as the heart of the whole design—a club space surrounded by a roofed terrace facing the river. The contrast between both parts of the building is also reflected in the structural system. While the lower level is made of concrete load-bearing elements, the lightness of the upper level is made possible by the bold, minimal steel structure. Supported by low steel profiles, the lightweight hovering roof partially provides shade over the small square in front of the kayak shed with its bold cantilever. In some ways, along with the wall—the privacy screen— it extends the building and incorporates it into the environment, simultaneously creating a sign in that space. A particularly expressive quality is achieved by the design of the joint between the ceiling and the glazing system. There is no transition layer between these elements – the glazing structure is in direct contact with the exotic wood ceiling lining that seamlessly flows into the terrace canopy. This eliminates the boundary between the exterior and the interior.