Interview with José García Liñares, Director of Aquapark Cerceda, Spain

This month we’re collaborating with José García Liñares, the predecessor of Aquapark Cerceda, a municipally-owned waterpark.

During our talk, he spoke about interesting aspects of the park’s management and its visitors.

“The waterpark was born in the year 2000, with an investment of around 3 million Euro. Its initial 3 hectares have not been expanded, but its attractions have been, taking advantage of the increase of visitors and the park’s popularity.

We open almost 90 days a year and although temperatures aren’t favourable at the beginning, in the months of July and August the park fills with people from Galicia, Asturias and even Leon. Our policy is to provide an aquatic leisure space that is accessible to all families, so we establish very competitive prices and we work hard to make them feel comfortable during their stay.

One of the park’s lures is its 1.5 hectares of recreational use, located near to the river and with grassy areas; something that is valued by our visitors as it allows them to have a enjoyable time. We have several attractions and all of them have a large influx, but I would highlight the Kamikaze and the V. Additionally, as in any park, visitors can find kiosks and cafés.

Revisions and maintenance checks are carried out before the park opens, which guarantee the safety of the park and its attractions. We pay great attention to this area, as it is tremendously important to us that guests feel happy and relaxed in all aspects.

Waterparks are a fundamental tourist resource for children (our future), and for middle-aged people, so I believe they have a promising future. In our case, it’s accentuated further as we’re the only park in Galicia, located in an inland area, and therefore it is one of the most important tourist resources in Galicia and of course in our area.
You only have to take a look at the data. Cerceda is a town of 5,000 inhabitants, through which more than 200,000 people pass in the summer months, generating a large source of income for the entire area.

After 18 years of operation, there are some aspects which I would modify, such as the attractions having run outs and therefore reducing the cost of cleaning the pools, which in turn generate the greater need for lifeguards. But generally, looking back to the era in which it was built, I am still proud to have carried out its construction”.

21st century zoos

In the future, zoos will be very different to how we know them today. For several decades, it has been shown that animals’ captivity affects their well-being and life expectancy and also, in some cases they suffer due to the terrible conditions in which they live.
The increase of society’s awareness and respect for animals, means each day there’s greater concern for preserving and caring for their welfare, but we’re still far from this reality.

With the aim of showing that there are other ways of building zoos, better adapted to the times in which we live, the Archstorming team has organised an ideas competition: “Coexist: Rethinking Zoos”, where architects from around the world can express the new concept of zoos for the 21st century.

The zoo studied was Barcelona zoo and the winner is a team of Thai architects: Worawut Oer- Areemitr, Chanakarn Assavasirisilp, Thakan Navapakpilai and Bemjama Prasertpan.

The architects show that there are new ways for visitors to understand animals in a friendly and sustainable way. Their proposal considers the zoo as part of the urban fabric, instead of isolating it; people can experience the “Habitat Parc”, where animals can be observed in their natural environment. There is one clear purpose: to remove the “cage”.

An example of sustainable adaptation and development

Thanks to ingenuity, we’re used to seeing how mankind is capable of adapting to adverse situations and conditions, however it is something that never ceases to surprise us.

In India, local engineer Sonam Wangchuk has developed a way of combating drought during the start of spring, by creating artificial glaciers. His idea is based on making use of the cold weather and frosts that occur in the landscapes of Ladakh, in the north-west of the country.

The chance of observing one sunny day how a piece of ice remained frozen in the shade of a bridge, and inspired by cultural monuments, lead him to design a conical ice structure. In this way, the conical “glacier” provides shade to itself and it takes longer to melt. The aim of this artificial glacier is just to maintain the supply of water for crops when it is most needed.

When temperatures fall dramatically, the work begins on forming the glaciers. River water is collect through hoses and is driven towards forming the conical structures, thanks to the unevenness of the terrain. The beginning of spring, with its high temperatures in areas of lower altitude, brings droughts that are combatted with the progressive melting of these glaciers, storing and distributing water directly to the crops.

One more example of sustainable development and adjustment to the environment.

A board game that teaches children to build cities

“Kids Build Cities”, is the name its creator, the architect Naama Blonder, has given it. It aims to involve children in the planning and development of cities.

The project was born from a community consultation in a neighbourhood in the city of Toronto; concerning the remodelling of one of its most emblematic establishments and where the architect was present. Thanks to her experience, she helped to enter deeper into the dialogue and concerns of the neighbours, assuming that citizens don’t often understand the rules with which designers are confronted.

This lead her to develop “Kids Build Cities”, a board game that challenges young (and not so young) people to develop their own cities, following rules applicable in a real environment. In this way, through fun and interaction, citizens are more committed and open to the dialogue of common planning.

The game consists of building urban blocks composing of: housing, libraries, parks, pools, stores and offices. To win, the players must construct blocks with the greatest number of uses, but the available space in these blocks is limited, so the time comes when vertical construction is required; and it is at that point where the urban debate begins.

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Interview with Raquel Rodríguez, Director of the Aquaola waterpark in Granada, Spain

“Aquaola opened its doors in 1986, with an area of more than 4 hectares, which we have maintained throughout the years. Our main attraction lies in the landscape. There are numerous areas with trees and gardens, which compose a landscape of great interest. This aspect has become one of the most emblematic features that differentiate this waterpark from other similar installations. Out of the 45,000 m², the park has 32,000m² of splendid gardens and recreational areas and all the attractions are configured taking advantage of the natural unevenness of the terrain, without mechanical structures and surrounded by very beautiful, fresh green areas.

We have updated and extended our attractions during these years. The Rio Bravo is one of the most popular attractions, together with the wave pool, which offers a large space to enjoy the water, swim and take on the 6 different types of waves that the pool generates.

One of the park’s star attractions is the Black Pipe, a slide with light and sound, which riders descend on large floats. The fun is completed with the Lago Iguazú, which offers all the adventure you want, with ring games, the drop-off on “the tube”, or the force of the turbulent waters of its waterfalls.

In addition to the attractions, the park has self-service, in addition to several drinks kiosks, ice cream shop, souvenir shop, photography, tattoos, hammock rental and rental of floats.

We have a capacity of 1,460 people and our visitors are primarily national, more specifically from Granada, Almería and Jaén. The latter represents 30% of the public, since there is currently no similar park in the area. In contrast, foreign visitors represent a minimum percentage, of around 10%.

We carry out extensive marketing work, devoting much of our attention and budget (around 7-8%). We are present in various advertising media and make great use of the radio and especially face-to-face acts at local festivities in Granada and Jaén, where we appear with an advertising stand and some recreational activities related to our own activity. To reach tourists, we take advantage of direct sales in hotels in the province.

Our staff forms part of the success of Aquaola; we have a fixed team of 14 people for maintenance, administration and customer service, as well as a trained group of seasonal cleaning, security and lifeguard personnel, who guarantee safety and quality standards in the park.

Internally, we impart a specific course for working with us, to which we add some theoretical and practical tests. In this way, we make sure that each of the lifeguards who provide their services in the park is adequately trained to do so and that the courses given by external companies to obtain the titles have been of benefit to them.

Depending on each season, we allocate more or less of the budget to certain items. There are years in which we focus on what the public does not see (machinery, equipment, etc.) and others in which we invest in new attractions, but we always have to have a fixed maintenance budget, which in our case is the maintenance of gardens and trees, Aquaola’s added value.

After a few difficult years, the sector is being revitalized. As in all businesses, it’s extremely important to renew in order to offer the public new activities, especially in the case of our park, which has a primarily local audience. We constantly see how new attractions are designed and the effort to stay in this sector comes through this renovation.

Our goal is to keep expanding attractions, recouping in this way the number of visitors we had before the economic downfall. Last year we renovated the playground with new tracks and slides, as well as restyling the brand, which gave us very good results. For this campaign we have focused on renewing the interior image of the park doing work on the paving and bathrooms; during this season, we hope to recover the figures that we had before the downturn.

We’re treated well by local media such as the Ideal newspaper, the Granada Ser radio station and the Granada newspaper. In fact, every year we receive a visit from Canal Sur to do its program from our facilities.

It is true that we have never had any serious accident, and as such we’ve freed ourselves from the impartial analyses that are often made of these facts.

If we had to start over, through design we would try to optimize the necessary park personnel. As each of our attractions has an independent start-point and arrival pool, the lifeguard personnel required is much greater than if all the slides and soft slides had the same departure and arrival area.

This distribution was due to the use of the characteristics and orography of the terrain, but we have verified that this same characteristic could be maintained during the park’s construction, by combining the reception pools in some way”.

The world’s largest single dome tropical greenhouse

France is not known for having a tropical climate, but far from that, it’s preparing itself to house one of the world’s largest tropical greenhouses and the largest under just one dome.

It will be in the north of the country, in the Pas-de-Calais area, with Coldefy & Associates as the developer of this megaproject. It is hoped to be operational by the end of 2021 and expects to receive around 500,000 yearly visitors.

“Tropicalia” will have an area of 2 hectares and will be surrounded by an enormous aluminium frame, which will support the material that will cover it. It is a transparent, thermoplastic polymer, commonly known as ETFE, which has great heat, corrosion and UV-resistant properties.

Several projects have been constructed with this system, such as the Allianz Arena in Munich or the Eden Project in the United Kingdom.

Inside, there will be numerous animal and plant species from tropical areas, which can be visited using a pathway that covers a large part of the area and where guests can walk along bridges, pools and cascades. As a complement, the space will also have room for accommodation, dining and a specific area to carry out research projects.

The concrete revolution

The concrete revolution is taking place and it’s aimed at turning this material into a lighter and more intelligent version of itself.

Some months ago, researchers in Zurich’s Polytechnic School, launched a video showing the development of a concrete structure with a core of enormous steel cables, held with metallic nodes.

These specially designed nodes, mark the innovation of a construction system that allows the creation of complex geometries. Thanks to an algorithm, the cables can be tensed and un-tensed according to the structure’s needs to distribute the loads towards the ground. Then a textile mesh allows the upper layer of the structure to be coated by spraying concrete and it is then eliminated to proceed with the lower one.

“Block Research Group”, the name of the research group, is leading this revolution and it has already collaborated with renowned firms such as Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects amongst others, and promises to become a benchmark in concrete construction.

Apart from the spectacular geometries that can be achieved, this system allows the weight generated by reinforced concrete to be lightened – it currently represents around 75% of a building’s weight – especially in floor and ceiling slabs. There is no need for formwork or reinforcing steel bars and it’s much thinner; furthermore, the cables are 100% recyclable.

Manufacturers and architects are beginning to assume sustainability as a premise and are already working on ultra-thin cements, those that absorb pollution and even those that self-regenerate. For its part, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is also in the race, working with new mixtures for concrete using recycled plastics.

On the other hand, there is construction by 3D printing, a technology that although incipient, has been in development for more than 20 years. However, it is expected that in the coming years the projects through this system will be truly significant.

This impressive Arctic hotel will produce more energy than it consumes

The first “energy positive” hotel will be built on the Arctic circle. The building is designed to generate energy autonomously and to even produce more than it needs.

Its name, Svart meaning “black” in Norwegian, is related to its future location. The ecological hotel will be constructed at the foot of one of the largest glaciers in Norway, Svartisen, “the black glacier”.

It will be 100% sustainable; using solar panels and strategic positioning, the building will create its own energy, consuming 85% less compared to a modern, standard hotel. The walls will be heated with geothermal wells and all the materials used to construct the hotel will be ecological, chosen for their low environmental impact.

In the design process, the architects started by mapping how solar radiation interacted with the mountainous environment throughout the year, in order to optimise the collection of the sun’s natural energy. Its circular design was the result.

Its shape is inspired by a ‘fiskehjell’: a wooden A-shape structure that is used for drying fish and ‘rorbue’: a traditional wooden house used by fishermen. The hotel’s support structure is constructed with weather-resistant wooden poles and is located several meters below the water level. These poles guarantee the building will have little impact on the natural surroundings.

The building, which extends from the coast situated at the foot of the Almlifjellet mountain, up to the crystalline waters of the Holandsfjorden fjord enjoys impressive panoramic views.

The project is a collaboration between Arctic Adventure of Norway and the international design and architectural company Snøhetta. The hotel is expected to open its doors in 2021.

Interview with Zaurad Yumakaev, Director of the Planeta Waterpark in Ufa, Russia

This month we talked with the Director of the Planeta Waterpark, located in the city of Ufa, Russia.

The park has a year-through operation and forms part of the namesake leisure and shopping centre, the largest in the Republic of Bashkortostan.

“Our waterpark has an area of 5,400 m², a space that was determined by the shopping centre in which we are housed.

We have a varied offer of themed children’s slides and a group of classic slides such as a Hydrotube, a Black Hole, a Body Slide, a couple of Kamikazes, a FreeFall and the most popular attraction with our youngsters, the Space Bowl.

Despite the reduced space available, we have a wave pool and lazy river that runs throughout the whole park. In the summer season, we have an outdoor area with a children’s pool and café.

We also have a SPA area, with different Jacuzzis, saunas and massage services that complete the facilities we offer.

We make special efforts to achieve the highest safety standards. All our personnel have the corresponding certifications and they periodically undertake training courses. We have a laboratory at our disposal where our chemical professionals carry out continuous monitoring of the water and air quality and we have an external control agreement with the city’s Epidemiological Centre.

Furthermore, we provide all our youngest guests with inflatable armbands, free of charge.

Our main value in regards to other waterparks in Russia is theming. From the entrance hall to the outdoor terrace, our guests are submerged in a true Jurassic park, thanks to the themed figures and attractions. The ambience is accentuated with waterfalls, lagoon-shaped swimming pools and caves.

From month to month we carry out marketing campaigns to promote park visits and to try to avoid seasonality. These actions are undertaken directly, as well as through agreements with federal and local operators. Thanks to them, we have continual inflow of visitors, not just from the city of Ufa, but also nearby regions such as Perm, Oremburg Oblast, Chelyabinsk Oblast, the Republic of Tatarstan and Udmurtia.

Being integrated into a shopping mall has certain advantages: Visits to the shopping centre improve park attendance and helps with its promotion. On the other hand, the difference between the park’s and shopping centre’s micro-climates are a disadvantage as operating costs increase.

Although we don’t anticipate any significant refurbishments, as in our view the space has been optimally and comfortably designed, we are currently evaluating expanding our services and treatments in the SPA area.

If we had to plan the project from scratch again, we would follow the same path, although the wave pool (which is the attraction which most attracts guests) would probably be bigger and we would build a small swimming pool, where we could offer courses for future mums, something which is very fashionable in Russia, as well as children’s swimming lessons.

As a note, we are really happy to be a centre of attraction for national tourism in Ufa. According to statistics, only 50% of visitors are local. The rest come from other nearby cities and regions.”

The future of sports centres: Sports no, activity yes

If there is something that characterises current society, it is the speed at which it changes. Consumers are increasingly better informed and more demanding in regards to how they spend their time dedicated to leisure, sport and health.

The sport centre sector, which has been static and unchanged for a long time, is becoming aware of the need to adapt to reality of the marketplace and society, and it’s starting to evolve and adjust what it has to offer.

Leaving aside the specific rules and playing regulations of each discipline, sport is based on activity, play and freedom; these concepts provide the foundations of the evolution of sport as we currently know it and mark the line for its future development.

This change is easy to implement in outdoor environments, where we also have the help of natural resources in the practice of any activity. However, in indoor spaces, the difficulty increases; users are used to practicing sport in fields for a specific sport, pools, gyms, etc., so the activity and freedom are limited.

To create a new generation of sports centres, it’s necessary to provide users with different spaces and facilities that allow them to freely practice activities and that these activities favour the development of different skills, combining sport, with leisure and entertainment.

An example of this evolution is the Summit Indoor Adventure, in the town of Selby, located in the north of the United Kingdom. In this case, the town council chose the development of a sports centre that doesn’t include pools, nor games halls, opting instead for BMX tracks, a climbing area, an adventure park and even a ski simulator.

This innovative proposal is intended to transmit sport in a distinct way, with more exciting activities that attract people wanting to do physical exercise and improve their health.