- FLOW, a temporary public swimming pool in Brussels
This scorching summer has made us appreciate, if ever there was a need, the accessibility of water, also as a means of cooling, to withstand the heat waves that have gripped and are still gripping the northern hemisphere of our planet, which is increasingly struggling with the climate crisis.
In this sense, the FLOW project, an open-air swimming pool by the Anderlecht canal in the Brussels metropolitan area, measuring 17 x 7 metres, is a virtuous example, not by chance counted among the five finalists for the prestigious European Prize for Urban Public Space, 2022 edition. It is a project born in 2021 by Jozef Wouters' Decoratelier studio in collaboration with the non-profit association POOL IS COOL. In its conception phase, it saw the involvement of many actors as creating a public and free swimming pool, accessible through a simple online reservation to avoid overcrowding, required concerted action.
Let us retrace its history. POOL IS COOL was founded in 2016 in Brussels and committed to reintroducing outdoor swimming through actions, projects, research and debates. Its goal is to allow all residents of the Belgian capital to enjoy outdoor swimming as a sport and social activity. Thus, the organisation joined forces with Decoratelier, Art2Work, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, FIX, Ecoworks and Speculoos + Variable to develop, build and manage Brussels' first public outdoor swimming pool. Each of the partners was therefore directly responsible for a specific aspect of the project, such as design, identity, construction, management, technical infrastructure and communication. All coordinated, of course, by POOL IS COOL with the support of the local and regional administration.
But let's leave it to Jozef Wouters, who said at last year's opening: 'FLOW was built by many hands. To make it possible, we opted for a modular design. In Decoratelier (Molenbeek) a large group of local young people got together for several weeks to work on the parts. For this reason, FLOW is more than just a swimming pool. During and after construction, conversations took place about public space, privacy, police brutality and exclusion. Only last year these young people were excluded from the Belgian coast; this year, they are building a radically inclusive bathing place in their own city. A stretch of water where we can come together again'.
Hence the great value of FLOW, as it goes beyond just being a place to take a dip.
The 2022 season started, as in 2021, on 1 July and will last until Sunday, 18 September. Opening always in the afternoon, apart from Tuesdays when it is possible to swim in the morning. For those in Brussels, here is the dedicated site where you can check if there are any free slots. And not only that: you can also contribute to the survival of the project, as it is financed through crowdfunding.
Like last year, there are swimming lessons, and the experience is enhanced by a varied cultural programme in the evenings. New this year is the presence of a kiosk run by local youths. Thus, attending FLOW is a time for relaxation and inclusion in a neighbourhood without great free attractions where one can spend one's free time healthily and safely. All in all, FLOW is an idea that we would like to find in many of our cities.
Project: Jozef Wouters with Pool is cool
Location: Anderlecht, Belgium
Images: Paul Steinbrueck