Diving into the future of public open-air swimming pools in Brussels

Diving into the future of public open-air swimming pools in Brussels
Credit: Markus Spiske/ Unsplash

As the opening of FLOW, the open-air pool in Anderlecht, on 1 July nears, organisers and locals are beginning to wonder the annual question - will this be a one-off event or the first of many that will turn Brussels into an open swimming haven.

Brussels' relationship with public swimming has been brought back to the forefront following last year's long, mostly vacationless summer for many of its residents. This period emphasised the need for public places for refreshment in the city, leading supporters to believe there is growing support to let people swim outdoors.

That's the argument POOL IS COOL is seeking to build upon.

The free 17-by-7-metre public outdoor pool, created by POOL IS COOL, which has been working to reintroduce open-air swimming to Brussels for five years, has the capacity to allow 200 swimmers a day, and will open on 1 July to remain open throughout the summer holidays.

"Our first step is, of course, to finish everything for the opening of this swimming pool, which is already quite a lot of work, but of course we are looking further into the future as well," Pool is Cool's Paul Steinbrück told The Brussels Times.

He explained that, once the pool has opened to the public, it will return every summer for the next three to five years, "so it is a temporary project, but spread across several years."

Steinbrück said that the ambition of the project is to show that it is not only possible to have a public outdoor pool in the city, but also that there is a need for it. "Like this, we can put some pressure on the political side of this," he added.

He said that Pool is Cool is in discussion with several relevant agencies, including Bruxelles Mobilité, that have already hinted at being interested in more such projects.

Brussels' Swim Central

As it stands, Brussels remains one of the few European cities without any form of open-air swimming pool, but if Steinbrück gets his way that won't always be the case.

"We believe that, if this pool in Anderlecht is successful, then maybe it can be used as a lever to make other projects possible," Steinbrück added, explaining that there are several other projects in the pipeline, many of which will also be located in Anderlecht.

In the long term, Steinbrück hopes that FLOW's current location, near Pont Pierre Marchant in the southwest of the city, will host a permanent open-air swimming pool.

"The one we have built now will have to be removed eventually, as renovations and works have been organised for this location, but for the good of the public space, we believe it would be very smart to consider building a pool next to the Canal or even creating a floating pool on top of it," Steinbrück said.

In nearby Neerpede, an area of about 400 hectares between Flanders and Anderlecht, the Brussels regional government is also already looking to create the first swimming pond in Brussels.

According to reports from VRT News, the swimming pond is expected to become a reality by summer 2023, as there is quite a lot of clean-up work to be done in the area first.

A third possible project in the area is the creation of an open-air swimming pool on the roof of the new Manufakture project, a building that will house meat and other food processing activities, as well as a car park, on the Abattoir site, which is currently undergoing a complete overhaul.

Last month, the Brussels Regional government approved plans to start examining the concrete feasibility of building a swimming pool at this location.

"The Region wants to examine the possibilities that this location offers for the establishment of an open-air swimming pool. The aim is to make it accessible to all Brussels residents and thus meet the great need for swimming pools in the region," said Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort.

The Brussels Urban Development Company (MSI) is working on drawing up a concrete proposal to examine how the project can be realised and operated, which is a "first, indispensable step towards determining whether such a project is viable in the Brussels Region, including financially," Bernard Clerfayt, Brussels Minister for Employment, said.

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