Award Winner - July/August 2003
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Sweet Design

Fairmont Aquatic Center
Salt Lake City

There's definitely a trick to making a new building fit into a mature park in a historic neighborhood, as the designers of the Fairmont Aquatic Center in Salt Lake City found out firsthand.


Their solution called for an extensive glass area enclosing the natatorium toward the park, allowing pool users to feel a part of the landscape.

"The most successful thing, I think, is the openness of the pool area," says Russ Bachmeier, project architect. "We wanted lots of glass to open it up to the park, bringing the natural setting of the park into the pool and vice-versa."

Housing both a competition pool and a leisure pool, the natatorium is structured with an exposed concrete frame in-filled with green-tinted, high-performance glazing. The glazing for the leisure pool projects outward in a curved shape from the concrete structural frame, presenting a dramatic view of the surroundings. Galvanized-steel grate shades suspended from the exterior of the building help cut down the glare on the water of the competition pool.

During the day, both pools seem like a natural part of the park environment because of the strong visual connection to the outdoors. At night, the natatorium glows like a lantern in the landscape.

Along the street front, a curved Atlas brick wall encloses the low locker room and support areas.

Development of the aquatic center was reviewed and approved at every step by the Sugar House Community Council, which oversees the preservation of this long-standing section of Salt Lake City.

"It's a modern design, obviously, but it does relate well to the historic Sugar House neighborhood," Bachmeier says, noting the different colors of brick used on the exterior.

Interestingly, Fairmont Aquatic Center is the only Zoos, Arts, and Parks Tax-financed project within the Salt Lake City limits. And aside from its sheer recreation value, the natatorium also fills an athletic niche for some Salt Lake City school districts that share it as their home pool.

From water slides to water polo, there is quite a variety of offerings.

"We fit a lot of different things in a relatively small area," Bachmeier says.

"Seductively inviting. Great use of bold color."

—Michael Bourque

"Consistent attention to the details and to the scale of the building elements make this project a little gem. The design is very crisp and has a consistency of quality throughout.
Nice curb appeal."

—Reed I. Voorhees

"Very striking appearance, seems to add drama for users. Nice spaces, use of natural light.
Simple, clean detailing."

—Philip Neeley


Submitted by: FFKR Architects in Salt Lake City

Size: 36,500 square feet

Project cost: $5,306,000

Quick tour:

  • 4,100-square-foot leisure pool has both zero-entry beach and stair access. The pool contains a water slide, current channel, vortex and several other play features.
  • Eight-lane, 25-yard lap pool is separate from the leisure pool and has its own filtration system. It has a shallow end of 4 feet and a deep end of 9 feet, as well as deck-level gutters on the sides and raised parapets at the ends to aid in visibility for swim competitions. The lap pool is also set up for water polo and equipped with a lift and stairs to make the pool accessible to all patrons.
  • The Dry Classroom/Training Classroom directly off the lobby allows for easy access during hours when the pools are not operating.
  • The Wet Classroom is located directly off the pool deck and adjacent to the locker room wet-side entrances.
  • The locker rooms are zoned for easy traffic flow and separation of wet and dry function areas.
  • The mezzanine-level spectator seating extends the full length of the competition lap pool and seats 400 people. The seating area is accessed from above to minimize the disruption to spectators viewing the competition.

Associated Firms

Structural engineer: Brickey Design Associates

Mechanical engineer: Heath Engineering

Electrical engineer: BNA Consulting Engineers

Pool consultant: Counsilman/Hunsaker & Associates, Inc.

Locker/shower flooring: Dal-Tile

Lockers: Penco Products Inc.

Swimsuit dryer: Extractor Corporation

Pool chemical control system and sanitation system: USFilter/Stranco Products

Pool filters: Stark High Rate Sand

Pool gutters: Acapulco

Pool handicap lift and starting blocks: Spectrum Aquatics

Pool ladders/grab bars: Paragon Aquatics

Pool lane markers: Competitor Swim Products

Pool lighting: Starite Pool and Spa

Scoreboard/timing system: Colorado Time Systems

Splash play features: SCS Interactive Inc., a Division of Koala Corp.; Rain Drop Products, LLC; Anchor Industries, Inc.

Pool divider curtain: Porter Athletic Equipment Co.

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