Proposed Public Outdoor Swimming for Berlin’s City’s Museum District

“Berlin is a city where crazy ideas that wouldn’t work anywhere else thrive, and good ideas that are tried and true in most other cities, fail. The German capital’s latest project of urban regeneration—turning a filthy canal that flows beside the city’s museum district into a swimming hole—is a testament to this reputation.” Henry Neuendorf

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Photo: Credit Annette Hauschild/Ostkreuz, The New York Times

Berlin’s latest urban regeneration project is to turn an unloved city centre canal that flows alongside the city’s museum district into an outdoor swimming destination.  Developed by the design firm realities:united, founders Tim and Jan Edler the idea was first proposed as far back as the 1990s. The proposal, called Flussbad, or river-pool, is to clean up the canal connected to the river Spree, creating a clean and safe swimming amenity. With an estimated length of over 700 meters, Flussbad would be the world’s longest swimming pool. One of the project’s primary aims is to increase the city’s architectural and urban orientation towards the river and to re-engage Berliners with a piece of inner city waterway that is no longer used.

The proposal plans to use plants to filter the water naturally removing  discharged sewage present in the polluted water of the Spreekanal thus creating effective and ecologically clean water for swimmers.

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Despite estimate costs that could be in the millions of euros, the idea is gaining popularity amongst conservationists, environmentalists and Green party politicians.  In 2014, the German federal government and the city of Berlin approved public financing totaling four million euros through 2018. This funding is an important step forward, as Jan Edler notes:

“Until now, no decision to build the Flussbad has been reached. We’ll use this funding to assess how the project could actually be brought to fruition, and to work to obtain the political decision to go ahead with the project.” Edler believes the project could have broader benefits: “I hope the Flussbad will also spur discussion about pollution in the river, so that the entire Spree River can be restored to health one day.”

Berliners are concerned about the cost and potential health implications. Costs will include filtering and cleaning the water to meet EU Water Framework Directives standards, maintaining the facility and security issues to keep swimmer safe.

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