London | Urban Plunge at Roca Gallery

Place: London, United Kingdom
Exhibition curated by Jane Withers for Wonderwater
Design by Mentsen
Commissioned by Roca
Photos by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit


The Roca London Gallery exterior, Photo by Inexhibit

Urban Plunge – New designs for natural swimming in our cities

Roca London Gallery
Station Court, Townmead Road, London
11 September 2014-10 January 2015

The Roca London Gallery is an ambitious space designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, created to presents the products and the identity of the Roca bathroom brand, which also hosts temporary exhibitions and installations.


Until January 2015, the Roca Gallery houses a beautiful exhibition featuring visionary projects related to an unconventional and fascinating theme: urban swimming.
London, New York, and Copenhagen are the locations of the six projects presented. Some of them are in an advanced development stage, and one has already been completed.
Several cities have been established near the coastline or on the banks of a river and for a long time urban waters have been used for recreational purposes, easing the access to shores, establishing rowing clubs, and creating public beaches right inside the city. This natural relationship with water declined during the 20th century for many reasons, including water pollution, the creation of artificial banks to prevent flooding, the increase in vehicular traffic, and, more generally, little interest in the question.



Although in Europe some urban rivers suitable for swimming still exist – Bern is an excellent example of a recreational use of a river coupled with a public park – nevertheless in most cases, the relationship between city and water has ceased.
The projects exposed at the Roca London Gallery are aimed to give back waterways to their cities’ inhabitants and, above all, promoting new design strategies focused on the care for the urban environment.



Water specimens from the Thames, The Hudson River, and Copenhagen Harbor are placed on a pedestal at the start of the exhibition.

Blackfriars Bridge North Foreshore and Temple Stairs Baths, London

These two projects by Studio Octopi envisage the creation of two outdoor swimming facilities right within the Thames River, along the Victoria Embankment in Central London. While the Blackfriar’s baths directly utilize the Thames’ water, in the hope that -following a long-awaited improvement on the London sewer system – it will eventually become suitable for swimming, the project for Temple Stairs uses rain or tap water, purified through natural systems. Both designs skilfully provide facilities addressed to both man and wildlife.


The project for the Blackfriars Bridge North Foreshore baths.

+ Pool in East River, New York

The project by Family and Playlab proposes the creation of a floating cruciform swimming facility located on the East River between the Brooklyn and the Manhattan Bridge. The idea is that, instead of trying to make the whole river clean, only the smaller amount inside the pool will be. Such a result will be achieved by purifying the river water through the pool’s own walls, equipped with several layers of filtering materials. A part of the project development is financed through the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform.


The +Pool project at the Roca Gallery. 

Of Soil and Water: King’s Cross Pond Club, London

Part of the Rely public art program, the proposal by Ooze envisages the realization of an outdoor swimming facility in a vacant lot part of the King’s cross development. The design exploits the purification properties of plants and creates a surprising bathing pond in a quite unconventional place: a construction site in the heart of a megalopolis. It is planned to be actually built the project in early 2015 and to leave it in place for 20 months.


King’s Cross Pond Club.

Harbour Bath at Island Brygge, Copenhagen

This project by JDS architects was actually built in 2002 in Copenhagen’s city center, where other 4 similar facilities are active. The efforts made in the past to improve the sewer systems currently make the Danish capital one of the very few large cities in Europe where it is possible to swim in clear water right in the heart of the city.


The Harbour Bath at Island Brygge. 

House of Water, Copenhagen

The enviable situation of Copenhagen allows the creation of ambitious and visionary projects, like the one by Tredje Natur. A fascinating artificial island, where nature, technology, and architecture meet, which is intended to be, along with a swimming facility, also an educational center focused on the relationship between water and the environment.



The House of Water design. 

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