International Urban Swimming PRE-conference

The last years saw a rise of initiatives striving for public swimming in cities all around the world. There are three main objectives, from access to existing waters to specific new sustainable swimming pool projects to the fundamental (re)introduction of open air swimming in cities where outdoor swimming is not possible at all at the moment.

It must be acknowledged that more and more city administrations follow these ambitions by supporting or realizing swimming places, often persuaded by cities where urban swimming is taken for granted as an everyday joy. In other cities it is still necessary for citizen based initiatives to push on. 

What unites all these different projects is the understanding that outdoor swimming is more than a sports activity, it also provides much needed contact with the environment and promotes social interaction. At public open air swimming places people of different cultures, genders and ages can meet, and sometimes also confront each other. As such, although the concept of a public outdoor swimming place is simple at first sight, they are actually multi-layered and complex public infrastructures. They have a strong impact on a city’s overall quality of life, even influencing the perception and role of certain areas in cities. Urban swimming can be linked to the development of cities, its society and cultural life.


The INTERNATIONAL URBAN SWIMMING PRE-CONFERENCE is based on the shared experience that conferences which focus on specific cities eventually deal with recurrent topics. It’s an attempt to define these universal questions and approaches that different cities, initiatives and projects have in common as a preparation for a subsequent International Urban Swimming Conference in 2018. It’s the ambition for this conference to bring together the broad range of initiatives and stakeholders concerned with urban swimming to form an international urban swimming association to promote urban swimming all around the world as a key ingredient for the sustainable and livable cities of the future.

Besides the view on the general topic of Urban Swimming, the conferences will also be a place to share experiences and practical knowledge between the different participants in order to facilitate future collaborations within an international network. 

The Pre-Conference 2017 takes place in Kassel, Germany, on July 31. It’s accompanied by public classes sketching the local historical and general societal context of open air swimming. The location is the Freibad Wilhelmshöhe, itself an open air pool that was saved from closing by a citizens’ initiative in 2014 and since then run in collaboration of the initiative and the city. 

Present at the conference are POOL IS COOL, Flussbad Berlin e.V.Isarlust e.V., Dirk Paschke (Werksschwimmbad Zeche Zollverein), Fabian Bartel, Natalija Paunić and Agency Art Education, having in mind the work of Laboratoire des baignades urbaines expérimentalesThames BathsPeckham LidoFriends of + POOLUrban RiversHuman Access ProjectBadeschiff BerlinViiksipojat and many more initiatives and stakeholders (let us know if you want to become part of this list).


Monday, July 31, 2017

12:00 inofficial arrival of participants + free swimming (incl. buffer) ...

13:30 - 16:15    public event
13:30 - 14:30    opening, introduction, short presentation by everyone, overview of other initiatives
14:45 - 15:30    Natalija Paunić: Underwater Love: Beyond the Typology of Swimming Pools
15:30 - 16:15    Günter Wagner: Flussschwimmen im alten Kassel - Kurbad Jungborn

16:15 - 17:00     swim and snacks

17:00 - 24:00    pre-conference
17:00 - 17:45    manifesto session
17:45 - 21:00    discussion and work on proposals (5 questions turned into 5 topics)
21.00 - 24:00    wrap up and results open discussion

Freibad Wilhelmshöhe, Kurhausstraße 31, 34131 Kassel


The INTERNATIONAL URBAN SWIMMING PRE-CONFERENCE is initiated by POOL IS COOL Brussels, Agency art education Kassel and The Public School for Architecture Brussels, in collaboration with Baya Eden and Käpt'n Dallys Poolbar.

Pictures in the video by Koen Cobbaert, Inez Kaukoranta and Alex Voyer.