Rennes: Vilaine baignade!

L’Atelier d’Urbanologie invited POOL IS COOL to take part in a round table of experts in Rennes, France, about open air swimming in urban existing waters. The event was a working debate between architects and landscape designers, scientists, geographers, social researchers and local partners. It took place in the former mostard factory transformed in artistic workshops, Les Ateliers du Vent.

In the frame of the broad renewal of the city of Rennes, L’Atelier d’Urbanologie is working on activating a green area along the river La Villaine during the works of a new residential district, Baud-Chardonnet. The spot is known to be an open air swimming venue until the late 1940’s. The masterplan includes a riverside park described as the green beach of the city. Driven by its close relationship to the water, L’Atelier d’Urbanologie opened a discussion about the potential of open air swimming in urban waters.

The debate brought together specialists with an extensive knowledge of the water problematic. Researchers Marie-Florence Thomas (EHESP – School of Public Health) and Emmanuelle Hellier (University of Rennes) raised the question of the sanitary challenge for the river waters opened for public use. How the classification of the water types does interfere with its sanitary criteria? How the regulations can provide safe water for everyone while taking into account its evolving uses? Bacteriological datas, regulations and water quality maps have been discussed. For matters of public health, the knowledge of the risks is the first priority. Marie-France Thomas is currently working on a research project titled “Water in the city: a major component for a healthy urbanism?”

The geographer Frédéric Barbe (School of architecture of Nantes) presented a sensitive view of the swimming praxis in rivers over the last century in Brittany. How did the modern society step away from an established habit? The answer could be the access to motorized mobility along with the raising popularity of the familiar trip to the sea coast. The quiet disappearance of the river swimming implies the dissolvance of a specific atmosphere. Swimming, resting, fishing in the inner land appeals to a variety of public that one does not find on the beach coast.

Last but not least, Laboratoire des Baignades Urbaines Expérimentales (who we invited to Brussels in march) presented their initiative to bring back open air swimming in the middle of Paris. In August 2016, the collective organized a massive bath in the Bassin de la Villette, following an official swimming competition with Olympic medalists in Bassin de la Villette. Parisians enjoyed the water so much that they actually got their point. Next summer, Paris will open the first public open air baths on the spot. More info about this major event on the webpage of Laboratoire. Big up to the City of Paris !

What about Pool is Cool? We were happy to present our urban actions, from dry performances to the guerilla swimming in Brussels spots. Our summer installation Badeau has also raised quite some questions. The blissful atmosphere of a small pool is in striking contrast with the distant water level of our (in)famous Canal. Is that gap bridgeable some day? For us, swimming can be an answer.