A Large Pool In Berlin’s Spree River

To have a swimming pool at the feet of any of New York City’s many museums seems unreasonable—even plain crazy. But not in the city of Berlin.

The German capital is currently organizing a proposal to create a 2,460-foot (750-meter) swimming pool under Project Flussbad that will stretch across Museum Island, a site that is presumed to house Europe’s largest assembly of art and archeological artifacts. What’s more, the swimming pool is already there. The new playground for swimmers will not be a recent construction, but an already-in-existence arm of the Spree, a river that flows through the Saxoyn, Brandenburg, and Berlin states of Germany.

If all goes as planned, Berlin natives and foreign swimming enthusiasts alike will have a new shimmering basin to dip their toes into—at 15 times the length of an Olympic size pool, we might add. And according to CityLab contributor Feargus O’Sullivan, all should go just as planned for the project, because it already is.

“The plans themselves are so watertight,” O’Sullivan notes. “They could stand as a textbook case on how to improve urban waterways, and the space they would free up for swimming is only part of their charm.”

The design is simple and elegant: The river’s current plunge is set to transform into a wide staircase that gradually descends into the water, facing west as a way to offer its guests more sunshine. During summers, people are welcomed to lounge or swim as they please, while enjoy activities like ice skating come icy winter months. On the other side of the pool, a steep drop will be available to divers. Here, on the deep side, a changing room with showers will be situated deeply sunken into the ground as a means of not spoiling views of nearby historical structures.

 A Large Pool In Berlin’s Spree River - ClapwayPhoto Courtesy of flussbad-berlin.de/en

And although Berlin’s plans sound remarkably swell (almost too good to be true), there is one obvious question: How will it be cleaned?

To combat the anticipated dirty waters, Berlin plans to construct a new urban wetland and riverside park in order to filter the water. O’Sullivan explains:

“As the river goes round the Museum Island, it splits into two arms. The wider arm will be kept free for boats—at present, mainly pleasure cruisers and the occasional barge full of grit. The narrow arm, on the other hand, would be totally overhauled. In its first stretch, the embankment will be removed, creating a small ox-bow lake that will allow the river to flow shallower and more broadly. This will open up space for a new urban park filled with trees and reed beds through which the water can meander.

After this section, the river will become a filtration channel—a long stretch of reed beds resting on gravel, both of which will clean the water before it enters the swimming area. All along this narrow arm, a new bypass sewer would be constructed to ensure that any storm overflow discharges into the river’s main arm.”

After a recent summer study’s anticipated approval of the project, the river-pool project is now applying for a slice of a new €50 million national urbanism fund. It’s currently Berlin’s first choice of candidate for the cash purse. So sit tight fellow adventurers, Berlin awaits.