Dezeen Magazine

Studio Octopi designs floating swimming pool for Melbourne's Yarra River

Venice Architecture Biennale 2016: the architects behind plans to create a cluster of freshwater swimming pools on the River Thames have unveiled a proposal for a floating pool on the Yarra River in the Australian city of Melbourne.

Studio Octopi was invited by Melbourne nonprofit organisation Yarra Swim Co to develop the concept for the Yarra Pool, which aims to return swimming to the urban river.

Swimming in the Yarra River used to be commonplace, with a three-mile swim race through the city taking place from 1913 until 1964, when increasing concerns about the polluted state of the river prompted its cancellation.

The proposal for a floating pool would use the Yarra's tidal properties to naturally cleanse the water and enable safe swimming throughout the year.

Yarra pool project in Melbourne harbour by Studio Octopi

The project is included in a book published to accompany the Australian presentation at the Venice Architecture Biennale, where the nation's pavilion explores the history of the swimming pool and its role in Australian society.

While it is presented as a concept, Yarra Swim Co is currently in discussions with authorities and potential sponsors, and a pop-up version currently being developed could enable a trial to be conducted as early as next summer.

A patent is currently pending on a locally developed technological solution for filtering the the Yarra Pool's river water supply, for which further testing will be carried out this year.

"Our vision is to have Melburnians talk about our river differently," said Matt Stewart from Yarra Swim Co. "To be proud of the Yarra, and to see it as an active place of nature, recreation and play."

The plans show a pavilion housing a ticket office, cafe and changing rooms located on the riverbank, with a walkway extending over the water to a decked pontoon lining a 25-metre lap pool. The scheme also includes a smaller children's play pool surrounded by a planted floating pontoon.

City Hall Thames baths in London by Studio Octopi
Studio Octopi has also designed a concept for a cluster of freshwater swimming pools on London's River Thames

"The Yarra Pool is an exciting project that talks to a wider conversation globally around access to urban waterways," claimed Studio Octopi's Chris Romer-Lee, who previously said that "indoor pools have had their day and there's a bit of a return back to the outdoors," in an interview with Dezeen.

Studio Octopi's original proposal for two floating pools in London's Shadwell area and alongside Blackfriars Bridge also planned to use tidal water from the river. However, the studio later developed an alternative scheme featuring a pontoon of three freshwater pools to be situated near Temple underground station.

The updated Thames Bath concept would use either freshwater or recycled rainwater and could be implemented much sooner as it doesn't rely on the completion of a new sewage tunnel planned for 2023 that should drastically improve the river's water quality.

Similar to the London concept, the Melbourne pool would offer swimmers superb views of the city's central business district from the water and the surrounding decks.

Yarra pool project in Melbourne harbour by Studio Octopi
Site plan – click for larger image