Back in 2004, German artist Susanne Lorenz was disappointed that a certain stretch of the Spree River was almost completely neglected by the locals. To remedy that, she opened up an art exhibit as part of Berlin’s Statdkunstprojekte (City Art Project Society). The art exhibit turned out to be popular — unexpectedly so. When the art exhibit was over, a bunch of German locals wanted to keep it.
So, what do you do with an adored floating art exhibit that has outlived its usefulness? You shave off the top, pour some water into it, and convert it into a public floating swimming pool. Now dubbed Badeschiff (bathing ship), the pool gives Berliners a clean and beautiful place to swim.
Much like the art exhibit before it, the popularity of the Badeschiff has exceeded all expectations. Converting the swimming pool costed a hefty 100,000 pounds, but frequent visits by locals have enabled it to become a permanent installation.
They’ve even added a few amenities to make it more than your standard, run-of-the-mill swimming pool. It’s got lights to accommodate nocturnal swimmers, hammocks, an artificial shore made from white sand, and a bar (this is Germany we’re talking about, after all). During most evenings, you’ll find a disc jockey playing some tunes for the relaxing swimmers. And on top of all that, the 105,000 gallon pool is kept comfortably warm at 75°F to stave off the occasionally harsh German weather.
The Badeschiff is just another on the growing list of floating swimming pools that are popping up in major city waterways around the world. Who could have ever imagined that floating pools, an idea that seems completely redundant and unnecessary, could be so incredibly popular?
I think a lot of the appeal comes from the fact that, as Susanne Lorenz said, people feel disconnected from water. They want to go swimming in the rivers but know that it’s much too unsanitary. So when chlorinated pools give swimming enthusiasts a chance to take a dip “in the river,” they jump at the opportunity.
Originally, much of the Badeschiff’s purpose was to reunite Germans with the Spree River. In the past, swimming in the river was a favorite activity, but recent pollution has made the water unsafe. The Badeschiff emulates that lost hobby, to a degree, and allows swimmers to reconnect with the past.