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River baths worldwide

Flussbad Berlin is of course not the only river bath worldwide. And it is not even the first in the world. There are many pioneers and at least as many contemporary companions.

The tradition of river bathing is a very old one, especially in Switzerland. Whether in the Rhine, Limmat or Aare, the water quality is usually so good that you can just jump into these rivers. Over the past two decades, many cities around the world have bethought of their bodies of water, which are being increasingly reconquered by the citizens.

You will find a small collection of urban river baths around the world here which will grow bit by bit. These reference projects are located on rivers, streams, former rivers and sea harbours and have been upgraded with more or less infrastructure.

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London - Thames Baths

London - Thames Baths

So many urban waterways have been in decline since the warehouses and industry along its riverbanks closed. Nowhere is this more exposed than in London where high rise development is now fast replacing the lowrise blocks along the river’s embankments.

Concerns over the ‘canyonisation’ of the river are evident in areas such as Vauxhall and Nine Elms. Impenetrable private developments are now a physical barrier between communities and the river. Luxury developments are crowding out the river’s edge effectively privatising public space. To make matters even worse, a high percentage of the sold apartments are being purchased by overseas investors who are not living in them, thus creating soulless communities. The plans to reclaim rivers aren’t a solution to the housing situation but do provide access to what is usually the largest public space in the city. In London the central section of the Thames is 7x the size of Hyde Park - these are huge underutilised spaces that are usually dominated by commercial river traffic.

The London sewage system was opened in 1865, and the sewage pipelines have been operating at their limits for over 150 years. Due to 57 mixed water overflows approx. 39 million tons of wastewater were washed into the Thames River only in 2014. All metropolises must face this challenge.

Therefore the company “Thames Water” is planning a "Thames Tideway Tunnel", which shall be completed in 2023, and which counts on the significant investments by the German insurance “Allianz Versicherung” for its realisation. One effect of this tunnel would hopefully be the improvement of the river water quality so that the Thames could once again restore a certain quality of life.

Forming a natural connection between the manmade embankment and the river has been key since the very beginning of the "Thames Baths" project. The founders (Studio Octopi) are aiming to do this through public space, encouraging access to a new floating public space for swimmers and non-swimmers alike. Access to Thames Baths will be free and offer on board educational and community spaces that communicate the opportunities, past and future, the river offers for citizens.

More information on the project "Thames Baths" can be found here.