Atelier Bow-Wow and Dertien 12's Canal Swimmer's Club
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Atelier Bow-Wow and Dertien 12 create Canal Swimmer's Club on Bruges waterway

This floating sun deck on the edge of a Bruges canal by Atelier Bow-Wow and Dertien 12 is installed to provide a resting place for swimmers during the city's first art and architecture triennial (+ slideshow).

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

Eighteen artists and architects, including Tokyo-based architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow and local studio Dertien 12, were invited to participate in the first instalment of the Bruges Contemporary Art and Architecture Triennial 2015, which runs until 18 October 2015.

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

The triennial theme asked contributors to consider the impact of a sudden population explosion in the historic city, as if the 5 million tourists who visit the city each year had decided to stay.

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

Atelier Bow-Wow and Dertien 12 settled on the idea of a Canal Swimmer's Club, a large wooden deck positioned on a stretch of canal that has recently been cleaned and reopened for public swimming after 40 years of prohibition due to poor water quality.

"There is huge potential to create new public space from the relationship between people's behaviour and water's behaviour," said Atelier Bow-Wow's Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Tom Gantois from Dertien 12. "It is both people who damage the water quality and who enjoy the water in the city."

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

The temporary deck floats on pontoons at the confluence of the city's Spinolarei-Potterierei and Sint-Annarei canals, and provides a summer meeting space for sunbathing and swimming. The name of the structure invents a swimming club that does not yet exist.

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

It is hoped the structure will attract new swimmers to the canal, as well as elderly residents who perhaps swam the city's waterways 40 years ago. The swimming conditions and water quality are signposted with a flag system like that used on beaches.

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

"It not only enlarges the public space within a too busy touristic city centre, but also indicates how much the water quality has been improved by the effort of people and city government," said Tsukamoto and Gantois. "The behaviour of people swimming in the water would signal the improvement of water quality."

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

"We named this the Canal Swimmer's Club in order to assign a fictional social background behind it," they added.

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

A net-enclosed ramp leads down from the street level to the platform, which is covered in recycled scaffolding planks and is supported by a galvanised steel framework.

The structure is designed to be easily assembled and disassembled each summer and floats on rented pontoons usually used by the Belgian military.

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

A pergola with slanted louvres covers 60 per cent of the platform, providing shade from the sun and redirecting rainwater through gullies directly into the canal.

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

A decked walkway extends out from the main sundeck under the Carmersbrug, a humpback pedestrian bridge, and links to a seating area overlooking a popular boating area.

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial

Similar plans have been proposed for London's waterways, including a floating swimming pool on the River Thames by Studio Octopi and a freshwater bathing pond in Kings Cross by Ooze Architects.

Photography is by Filip Dujardin, Ellen Demeulemeester and Jan Darthet and Stef Declerck.


Project credits:

Architects: Atelier Bow-Wow, Dertien 12
Structural engineer: Util

Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial
Site plan – click for larger image
Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial
Short section – click for larger image
Canal Swimmer's Club by Atelier Bow-Wow + Architectuuratelier Dertien 12 for Belgian Triennial
Long section – click for larger image