IAKS Expert Circle on Sports Halls discussed modern sports facilities in Cologne, Germany

Workshop: Challenges and approaches in creating modern sports facilities and exercise spaces - Nov 2019

Report by Harald Fux


Following the successful founding event for IAKS Austria on 26 April 2019, the IAKS Expert Circle on Sports Halls met in Vienna, and a further workshop of sports hall experts from the fields of industry, operation and planning was held during the 26th IAKS Congress 2019. Twelve IAKS members from five countries met under the chairmanship of Harald Fux, President of IAKS Austria.

Karin Schwarz-Viechtbauer, member of the IAKS Executive Board and chair of the workshop in Vienna, began by outlining the basic issues and objectives discussed there:

  • How much standardisation do sports halls need?
  • How suited at all is the standard sports hall to modern needs?
  • What risks and opportunities does standardisation offer?
  • The development of modern modules for usage patterns and spatial qualities as well as their implementation in decision-making processes and planning procedures is necessary.
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Harald Fux, architect, opened the workshop with a number of statements on the discussion of fundamentals: The classic, standardised sports hall, as we know it, follows the rules of club sports and still has its justification for competitions and competition training. In school sports, however, there is a declining need for regulations, partly because curricula are less focused on learning specific sports practised on sports equipment and more on the individual development of personal, social and mobility-based skills.

There is a clear need for adaptable, modularised and mobilised exercise spaces that are in the right balance with standard sports halls. Since there is a direct correspondence between the individual’s experience of exercise and the exercise space, attractive and modern models for exercise spaces and sports halls must be created, both in terms of sports function and design.

Fux stressed that the criteria for the design of a sports and exercise space are basically the same as those for any other space and that it must therefore ultimately be a matter of designing a space tailored to people. On the basis of some best-practice examples, mention was made of planning parameters such as socialising, accessibility, usability and activity as well as a location’s amenity and image. It was noted that the design and programming of a space for exercise in particular ultimately has a socio-political and social function.

Bernard Kössler, architect and board member of the Hamburg Sports Federation, highlighted the importance of the sports space used by clubs, but also endorsed the view that standards no longer have any significance and that sports and exercise spaces should be clearly coded. Thomas Beyer, IAKS member from Hamburg and former head of the Hamburg Land Sports Department, on the other hand, regretted the excessive influence of club sports on the educational space.

After the lively discussion of the opening statements, Roger Gut, President of IAKS Switzerland, presented some examples of sports hall buildings of recent decades from his practice HALLER GUT AG. The development of naturally illuminated, adaptive sports facilities was clearly in tune with the creative spirit of the times. Holger Kortbek, municipal sports facility operator from Denmark, took the example of various sports halls to demonstrate the use of general access and intermediate areas as ­spaces for exercise as well as the enhancement of sports facilities, e.g. with food and drink facilities and the arrangement of public areas in the immediate vicinity of the sports facility.

The preoccupation with the wide range of examples presented again illustrates the variety of and differences between the actual and initial situations in various countries. As already discussed in Vienna, this results once again in “Planning Phase 0”, in a professional and preferably participatory discussion of processes and planning procedures at the beginning of all design processes, supervised by experts.

Save the date: 12 May 2020

The IAKS Expert Circle on Sports Halls invites all experts active in the field of sports halls and exercise spaces to attend the next meeting. Coinciding with the “Invictus Games 2020”, this will take place on 12 May 2020 in The Hague at the award-winning “Sportcampus Zuiderpark” designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects.