Urban swimming is in the news these days including the crowd funded +Pool for New York designed by Playlab, the Thames Baths Project by Studio Octopi, the Copenhagen Harbour Baths by JDS Architects, the London based King’s Cross Pond Club, proposed by Ooze & Marjetica Potrč and finally the House of Water in Copenhagen by Tredje Natur. Meanwhile, the exhibition, ‘Urban Plunge: New Designs for Natural Swimming In Our Cities’, at Roca London Gallery, launched to coincide with the London Design Festival (13-21 September 2014), explores the growing urban swimming movement through a series of proposals for river and harbour baths that envisage imaginative new ways to enjoy urban water environments.
In 2010 Kingston University’s PGDip Landscape Architecture student, James Richer based his final project, ‘Guzzle – Urban Waterfields’, on the transitory nature of river side topography, focusing on the temporary flooding of river sites and using storm-water to provide the source water for several design features.
- setting the scene
The Thames River Basin District covers an area of 16,133 km2 and is home to over 13 million people. The tidal Thames supports 121 different species of fish and some 350 species of benthic invertebrates – organisms that live in or on the bottom sediments of rivers, streams, and lakes – which makes the Thames River Basin one of the most ecologically diverse estuaries in England and Wales.
- at risk?
· 350km² land area
· 55km² designated habitat sites
· 1.25 million residents (plus commuters, tourists and other visitors)
· Over 500,000 homes
· 40,000 commercial and industrial properties
· £200 billion current property value
· Key Government buildings
· 400 schools
· 16 hospitals
· 8 Power stations
· More than 1000 electricity substations
· 4 World Heritage sites
· Art galleries and historic buildings
· 167km of railway
· 35 Tube stations
· 51 Rail stations – 25 mainline, 25 DLR, 1 international.
· Over 300km of Roads
Source: Assets and people at risk in the tidal Thames floodplain, p12 Environment Agency TE2100 Plan Consultation Document, April 2009
Vauxhall Gardens was a pleasure garden, one of the leading venues for public entertainment in London, England from the mid 17th century to the mid 19th century. Originally known as New Spring Gardens, the site was believed to have opened before the Restoration of 1660 with the first mention being made by Samuel Pepys in 1662. The Gardens consisted of several acres of trees and shrubs with attractive walks. Initially, entrance was free with food and drink being sold to support the venture. Vauxhall Gardens was located in Kennington on the south bank of the River Thames, which was not part of the built-up area of the metropolis until towards the end of the Gardens’ existence. Part of the site is now a small public park called Spring Gardens.
Present day site: Urban grain
Public open green space – 1.SpringGardens – 2.Vauxhall Park – 3.Oval Cricket ground – 4.Lambeth Palace Gardens – 5.Victoria Tower Gardens – 6.Lambeth Walk
Movement – pedestrian movement dictated by roads & traffic – no clear access to river from site.
Structure use – primarily commercial along railway with residential sheltering behind – commercial units within arches of railway
The project proposes the development on an area which has lost contact with the River Thames + an opportunity to highlight the benefits of open water in a dense urban environment. It focuses on the temporary flooding of river side sites using stormwater to provide the source water for several design features.
The project site, Spring Gardens located on the edge of the River Thames in Vauxhall, London, is where he proposes the creation of a new gardens area which would build connections between the river, water and surrounding communities. James describes water as something to be celebrated…’not channelised, piped or hidden‘. ‘Guzzle’ fields would be produced by flooding and high tide water from the Thames providing transitory areas – a tidal pond – providing habitat creation for tidal riparian species – a swimming field – fed by stormwater and tidal flow water treated by re-mediating plant species and water supplied from a borehole.
To support the proposal, James identified several precedent projects where similar sustainable principles have been designed and built. One such precedent project is the Westergasfabriek Culture Park, 2005, Amsterdam, Netherlands designed by Gustafson Porter Landscape Architects which contains a long ribbon pool as part of the design forming part of a stormwater project. There is a strong theme of water that runs throughout the Westergasfabriek project and it incorporates several stormwater tactics.
A ribbon of water runs along the north edge of the Westergasfabriek site that starts as a wading pool and progresses through marsh areas into a seemingly wild creek. The site incorporates several stormwater control tactics into its design. Starting upstream, the grassy area surrounding the wading-pool serves as a filter strip, pretreating any water washing off the bike path toward the pool. Further downstream the design incorporates a constructed wetland in the marsh areas which again filters and purifies the water. Near the area of the wetland waterfall, some of the stormwater is diverted to the gasholder stormwater pond on the south side of the site. A check-dams and vegetation along the wild-growing areas of the stream serve as an enhanced swale that filters, aerates, and detains the water. This staging of tactics results in an effective treatment train that cleanses stormwater as it flows and allows for extra water to be handled gracefully.
Source: BIG-BOXES AND STORMWATER, 2008 – Alexander H Fite-Wassilak
To complete the project James identified relevant strategies both at local, London, UK and European level. This project was developed in 2010 and therefore there will have been further strategic developments which will post-date the following: