Brussels will build first public outdoor swimming pool on Abattoir roof

Brussels will build first public outdoor swimming pool on Abattoir roof
Credit: Office of Pascal Smet

The Brussels Regional Government has given the final green light to build a swimming complex on the Abattoir site in the municipality of Anderlecht, announced Brussels State Secretary for Urbanism Pascal Smet.

An indoor and outdoor swimming pool will be created on the roof of the Manufakture building on the Abattoir site in Anderlecht. Brussels Urban Development Company (MSI) will construct the project, following a proposal by Smet and Minister-President Rudi Vervoort.

"This is a great Christmas present for all Brussels residents! I have worked long and hard towards this decision and am of course immensely excited that we are finally going to build a public outdoor swimming pool in Brussels. And what a one," he said in a press release.

"Young and old will be able to swim in a unique place, with a fantastic view over the city. This will make a huge difference to the quality of life of thousands of Brussels residents," Smet added. "This is why I am in politics. Sometimes you are right too soon, but you should never give up."

'In the heart of a working-class neighbourhood'

Public outdoor swimming facilities have long been a hot topic in Brussels, one that resurfaces every increasingly warm summer. In 2005, Smet was the first Brussels politician to put open-air swimming on the agenda. In 2006, he launched an international architectural competition to create an open-air swimming pool in the Beco dock opposite the entrance to Tour & Taxis.

This project, however, was undone by Smet's successor in the next legislature, Brigitte Grouwels. Since then, the cry of many Brussels residents to be able to take a swim outdoors has only grown louder since then. In recent summers, citizens' collective 'Pool is Cool' has been creating a positive buzz around the topic for several years and even realised a temporary open-air swimming pool along the canal in Anderlecht.

"The municipality fully supports the project for a swimming pool that can accommodate as many people of all ages as possible. This project in the heart of a working-class neighbourhood demonstrates the revival of all these urban areas where all the challenges of Brussels come together," said Anderlecht mayor Fabrice Cumps.

Credit: Office of Pascal Smet

"That is why the municipal administration is very satisfied with the mobilisation of both public and private actors for this exemplary project. We can look optimistically to the future," he added.

In February 2022, the Brussels Region granted planning permission for the Manufakture building on the Abattoir site in Anderlecht, which will house food production and processing companies. The project also included structural reinforcement so that the building can support a swimming pool on its roof.

"I am very happy with this decision. Indeed, it will result in the slaughterhouse site becoming even more accessible to the public. It also meets a great need for recreational and educational opportunities," said Vervoort. "A public urban programme will also be launched along the canal. This will include up to 200 public houses, and the widely known market at the slaughterhouse will remain. The planned swimming pool at this location will help create the new dynamics that the Region is aiming for there."

The combination of food production and processing plants and a swimming pool is no accident: the operations use cold rooms that release a lot of heat, which can then be used to create a pleasant water temperature. In April 2022, Abattoir's board of directors appointed a contractor. Meanwhile, preparatory works on the Manufakture project, with a structure capable of supporting a swimming pool in the future, have started.

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The Flemish Government will also support the project and release €3.4 million, confirmed Flemish Home Affairs Minister Bart Somers. These funds will allow the Flemish Community Commission to take an active role as a partner within the development of the public swimming pool. This support is therefore excellent news for (Dutch-speaking) swimming clubs and school swimming.

The total cost of the swimming pool project, with indoor and outdoor pools, is estimated at €20.2 million.

"Our cities never stand still. They are places where there is constant movement, a drive for innovation and renewal. With the concept grants for urban renewal, we support cities to develop a new vision for an urban area," Somers said. "To boost the attractiveness, liveability and sustainability of their city. And that way, make it an even more pleasant place to live, work and play. The realisation of a swimming pool on the Abattoir site in Anderlecht is an excellent example of this."

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