Hart van Zuid

Feeling welcome and secure at the swimming pool

A new vibrant community hub is emerging in the southern part of the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The first completed project of the urban development project is the aquatics center ‘Zwemcentrum Rotterdam’: a venue for professional athletes as well as the people of Rotterdam. SILO, together with Kraaijvanger Architects, created a surprising, welcoming and safe entrance area.


In the years to come, the construction of new public buildings and the redevelopment of the public space will result in a metamorphosis of the area around Zuidplein and Ahoy. It will become a place where residents, visitors, and entrepreneurs truly can feel at home. One of the most important changes is the conversion of the former municipal office building into the aquatic center. Featuring an Olympic-sized pool and a multi-use short course, the center offers all the facilities that professional athletes need but also caters to recreational swimmers.

Impression of Rotterdam Aquatics Center

Impression of Rotterdam Aquatics Center – © Kraaijvanger Architects

Attention to security

The public space around the center will have a pleasant and inviting appearance. The building entrance requires special attention. As a visitor, you enter the aquatics center into an unmanned hall with a staircase and elevator. The ticketing desks, catering facilities, and access to the pools are only located on the upper level. How do you ensure that visitors feel welcome, but also secure in the entrance hall?

Rotterdam Aquatics Center Whale eye detail Whales

Let’s talk about the whale in the room

SILO chose to connect the aquatics center and its visitors with an idiosyncratic welcome. For the walls of the entrance hall, we created a singular image which combines hand-drawn illustrations with 3D-manipulated graphics. Most of the elements in the image you would expect in a swimming pool: sport and games, lane ropes, ceramic tiles, water movement, and reflection. However, in that playful amalgamation of elements, three enormous whales appear; giant but good-natured. A welcoming intervention that is surreal, yet very appropriate.

Rotterdam Aquatics Center Rotterdam Aquatics Center Rotterdam Aquatics Center

Watchful whales

The friendly and courteous whales greet the visitors and act as watchful giants. Psychological research shows that images of eyes can have a positive effect on security. Where cameras make supervision explicit, the whales’ big eyes can induce more pro-social behavior in a natural way. With their observant gaze, they literally keep an eye on the unmanned entrance area.


Strict requirements apply to swimming pools when it comes to the safety and durability of materials. The iconic image was therefore realized as an innovative pixel-perfect mosaic of 160m², consisting of 967,375 tiles. In its entirety, the mosaic applies identity to the swimming pool and enhances the visitor experience of the entrance area.

Design Rotterdam Aquatics Center
Design Rotterdam Aquatics Center

The whales greet visitors at the entrance and guide them up to the first level.



  • Client
    Kraaijvanger Architects/Hart van Zuid
  • Year
  • Activities
    Spatial design
  • Photography
    Thijs Wolzak

More info?


Rene Toneman
+31 (0)70 3856 946
+31 (0)6 24 66 07 37

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