Bathing in the Age of Trophy City Planning

[Beware: some pop-cultural criticism may follow.]

It seems to me that we’ve passed from the age of the trophy museum (Bilbao) to the age of the trophy city planning feature. The quintessential example of this is the New York Highline, I think. There’s nothing wrong with that age. On my radar, I would say that this age started with Paris Plages, the wonderful August/now-permanent closing own of the Seine-side freeway for pedestrian traffic and riverside lounging. Brilliant! Highline? Brilliant!

Here’s a possibility for a Berlin trophy feature, the Flussbad.

Watery Berlin

It may come as a surprise to many how rich in water features Berlin is. The claim has always been that Berlin has more bridges than Venice, but whether that is true or not, there are three major lakes (including the Tegeler See, of course), two major rivers, and many canals.

The core of official Berlin (around the Reichstag, Chancellery and all ministries) is visually defined by the river Spree. One of the grandest of tourist destinations, the Museumsinsel, is exactly that, a museum island.

There are several imitators of the Paris Plages concept. There are also some retro-innovations, like the Badeschiff. This is a barge that’s moored in a river, but filled with (swimming pool-quality) water. Have a look at their Instagram account and tell me that you don’t want to visit! I haven’t been, yet.


But can the Bathing Barge be topped?  Of course! Here’s a proposal for a Flussbad according to the Berliner Zeitung.

Essentially, the proposal is to block off a short branch off the Spree, the Spreekanal that flows on one side of the Museumsinsel, at both ends and turn it into a swimming feature. Growing up in Berlin, I would have done myself harm before voluntarily jumping into any of the rivers, but water quality now has vastly improved as we regularly witnessed at the Tegeler See in the past four weeks.

And, there’s historical precedent for this Flussbad. According to the article Berlin once had many of these river pools until they were all closed down in 1925 due to poor water quality.

The proposal envisions an 840m long pool right downtown with all the social delights that come with a large pool right downtown. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Follow them  @flussbad. There is meant to be a basin with plants, pebbles, etc. that would filter the water.

The current state of planning is preparations to anchor a testing barge on this section of the canal to measure water quality and test filtration.

Yes, I would enthusiastically welcome this feature, and promise to wear German-style speedos for my first swim!


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