Trend Alert: Open Air Swimming Pools on Famous Rivers


A new swimming pool trend that has been sweeping the country looks like it’s going global. Open air swimming pools in major rivers like the East and the Thames are either in the planning stages or have been implemented in recent years. With a new one in the works to set up along the Victoria Embankment of the river Thames, it’s been fun to take a look at some of the up and coming floating swimming pool projects.


Probably one of the most famous open air swimming pools is the + Pool. Originating as a Kickstarter project that barely had over 1,000 backers three and a half years ago, the plus-sign shaped pool (hence the name) has raised over $300,000 and accrued the support of approximately 4,573 backers. The + Pool is designed as four pools in one: a kid-friendly pool with a sloping shallow end, a sports pool, lap pool, and lounge pool. The brilliance of the + Pool is that it’s not just a self-contained pool sitting inside a river. It actually cleans river water (even a famously sludgy river like the East) which makes it perfectly clean and safe. From the pool’s website:

“+ POOL is designed to filter the very river that it floats in through the walls of the pool, making it possible for New Yorkers and its visitors to swim in clean river water. The layered filtration system incrementally removes bacteria and contaminants to ensure nothing but clean, swimmable water that meets both city and state standards. No chemicals, no additives, just natural river water.”

Pretty spectacular, right? Not to mention the view from + Pool is downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. The pool is designed to clean half a million gallons of water a day and features the names of donors on tiles along the deck. It’s one of the largest crowdedfunded civic architecture projects of all times and will be fully operational by 2016.


Similarly, the river Thames may be getting their own version soon enough. It would cost £10 million to complete and would measure 25 meters by 10 meters and have a similar filtration system to that of the + Pool. It would feature chlorine-alternative cleaning and have a reed bed and glass barrier to keep the river and pool water separate. The concept is being tossed around by the architects at Studio Octopi and Jonathan Cook Landscape Architects in conjunction with Tracey Emin and The Outdoor Swimming Society. It would only cost between £4-£6 to take a dip.

Rivers like the East and the Thames were once considered swimmable. In the 1930s, there were swimmers going up and down the London waters frequently, even though the water was less hygienic then than it is now. Dozens of bodies are still fished out of the Thames annually. However, the Thames is largely considered unsafe for swimming because of how much boat traffic happens on the river and the rapid current that can pull under unexperienced swimmers. If one wishes to take a swim in the river right now, they must be granted express permission. The presence of an open air pool on the river would present a sort of compromise.

Like the + Pool, the potential swim hole on the London river is a crowd-funding project.


Berlin is another location that has a very popular—albeit small—open air pool. The Badeschiff (meaning “bathing ship” sits on the East Harbor section of the Spree river in the German capital. While only 105 feet long and 26 feet deep, it’s a popular refuge in the summer where Germans flock to seek some small respite from the oppressively steamy weather. The pool is surrounded by a large deck with room to lounge as well as amenities like changing rooms and lockers.

What do you think? If you were visiting one of these cities in the summer, would you make a point to visit any one of these pools? I think it’d be an excellent way to see the city and have a great story to tell afterward. You can say you swam in the Thames or the East, albeit a small, clean portion of it.

But you can leave that part out.

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