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A Great City to Live In

The project “Flussbad Berlin” seeks to reactivate the Spree Canal in its total length as a public space designed for recreation and to foster an active experience of nature within the city.

The Spree Canal is almost two kilometres long and branches off in a south-western direction from the broader main Spree River at the Fischerinsel and re-enters the main Spree at the Bode Museum. When water traffic was transferred to the main Spree in 1894, the canal lost its original function as a highly frequented transport and supply route. Since 2000, all continuous traffic on the canal was brought to an end. Today, the canal serves almost exclusively as a repository for flood waters and wastewater. The Flussbad project seeks to change this situation in order to open up the canal space over its entire length as a public recreational area and to encourage people to actively experience and enjoy nature in their city.
Swimmers close to the Lustgarten Photo: cc Annette Hauschild, Agentur OSTKREUZ 2016
In the warm months of the year, the project will make the Spree Canal available for use as a swimming area. In the cold months, the area could be available for use as a space for winter sports. The stretch of clean water extends between the existing weir at the Federal Foreign Office and the Bode Museum at the northern tip of Museum Island. The swimming area will be sectioned off from the main Spree at the northern tip of the project area near Bode Museum by means of an end weir that will prevent any return flows of non-purified water into the swimming area. Today, the future swimming area is still lined with canal walls several metres high. Thus the project foresees large-scale stairways or comparable setups that would enable access to the water. These areas would serve to overcome the high canal walls and simultaneously create attractive recreational zones at the water all year round. Especially during the summer months, they would serve swimmers as access points and recreational areas. The Flussbad also foresees a continuous footpath along the Spree Canal designed to strengthen and encourage Berliners’ relationship to the water. This applies especially to the area around the Fischerinsel, where the path would be partially lowered to the water level and thus would contribute to an upgrading of the overall area, which is shaped by a residential housing.
The Flussbad project also has a number of features that are in full accordance with forward-looking concepts of sustainable urban development. Indeed, the project uses natural resources in an efficient and gentle manner with very low-level structural interventions. Yet another plus is the expected reduction in traffic volumes in the city during the summer months, seeing as people will no longer have to travel to the countryside to swim in natural water. This highlights the progressive idea of “social sustainability” as well as a number of less pleasing trends the Flussbad project seeks to push back against, for example, the problematic tendency towards “usage segregation”, i.e. the exclusion of certain population groups from the centre of the city.
Catchment area of Flussbad Berlin Layout: realities:united, 2012
In contrast to what its name suggests, the Flussbad project does not foresee the creation of a specific bathing facility. The project does not entail any form of supervised swimming or any kind of structural or organisational sectioning-off of the space. Nevertheless, the goal is to provide swimmers with a basic infrastructure that includes toilettes, cold-water showers, dressing rooms and lockers.