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An Ambitious Project to Open Access for Swimming in the ...

An Ambitious Project to Open Access for Swimming in the Historic Center of Berlin

In Germany, a project supported since 2012 by the Flussbad Berlin association aspires to make swimming in the river possible in the heart of the Berlin capital. It could come to fruition between now and 2018. Imagined in 1997 by two architects, the brothers Jan and Tim Elder, the project proposes building a natural pool in the

Berlin Museum Island

In Germany, a project supported since 2012 by the Flussbad Berlin association aspires to make swimming in the river possible in the heart of the Berlin capital. It could come to fruition between now and 2018.

Imagined in 1997 by two architects, the brothers Jan and Tim Elder, the project proposes building a natural pool in the open air, extending 750 meters along the canal of the Spree, at the heart of the museum island. The branch of the river in question no longer houses boats, but it remains impossible to swim there, at least within Berlin itself, because of the pollution in the water. On the other hand, it is possible to dive in upstream from the city.

As the Gazette of Berlin emphasizes, the capital already has a floating pool, located in the Treptow district of Berlin, but it is of a much lesser size, compared to the some 15 Olympic-size pools that this project would represent.

In part financed by numerous donations from the members of Berlin, the association is working to find solutions for improving the quality of the water, notably thanks to a plant-based filtration system. The idea is to create a vast wetland upstream from the swimming area, which would play the role of filtration, thus improving the water quality. In addition to the playful aspect of swimming in the middle of the city, the project is also a fabulous opportunity for allowing the reconnection of strong ties between the inhabitants and the river, and more generally, for pushing the people of Berlin toward the historic center of the capital.

Flussbad Berlin map

In concrete terms, the project plans for totally restructuring the branch of the river:

  • With a first section, whose docks and riverbed will be reworked in order to allow the river to flow more widely and with less intensity. This will also allow for opening up a space for the creation of an urban park, planted with trees and reeds, across which the water can find a serpentine path.
  • It's after this narrower section that the river will become a real means of filtration thanks to an immense reed zone, which should allow for cleaning the water before it enters the swimming zone.

While the project is still in the sketching and idea-building phases, this past summer, the Flussbad Berlin association received a large donation to bring to fruition an initial feasibility study. Moreover, the project was recently selected by a jury from the Ministry of Construction, which approved a donation of 3.9 million euros to complete new studies as a precondition to the realization of Flussbad Berlin between now and 2018.

This is something to follow closely, this audacious vision of what the metropolitan rivers of tomorrow could be.

How does public swimming enhance the urban experience? Would you go swimming in the downtown of your city if there were access? How do you feel about public swimming? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Bora Mici has a background in design and online writing. Most recently, she has worked as an online contributor for DC Mud, Patch.com, GoodSpeaks.org and WatchingAmerica.com, covering urban planning and visual and performing arts in the Washington, D...

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