London’s Secret Swimming-Pools
London is bubbling with swimming pools which in turn are bursting with screaming kids. If the screeches are anything to go by; they’re having the time of their lives. If you’re blessed enough to not be dodging maniac children, then god knows where you’ve found this haven, you lucky sod!
While many of our local pools might be substandard for the athletic potential we wish to achieve, the Capital is also home to some spectacular swimming lanes. We’ve got it all: from small pools, Olympic pools, quirky pools, a couple of great lidos and the odd freshwater pool; London might well be an aquatic capital! So let’s forget the dark and dingy pools we used to so love when we were those balling tots ourselves; and capture a few of London’s most inspiring pools (or ex-pools) that are surely worth a Sunday swim.
The London Aquatics Centre, Stratford, Zaha Hadid Architects, 2011
The indoor facility, with two 50 metre pools and a 25 metre diving pool, provides Olympic standard facilities to the population of London. The venue can accommodate up to 2800 spectators and also boasts a gym and dry diving facility (god knows what that is… good luck non pro’s). Run by charitable organisation Better, the London Aquatics Centre continues its inspiring legacy, benefiting the local communities by encouraging water activities. If you’re one of the many who change into speedos and fancy themselves as a gilded Olympian, but reality 5 minutes later reminds you differently, give Extreme Aqua Splash a go, let your hair down and run about on inflatables like the big kids you are (yes, it’s a class).
Architecturally, the Aquatic Centre is something to marvel at. This project is a spectacular example of Zaha Hadid’s parametric approach to design and attention to detail. The sinuous curve of the structure from the ground up carefully conceals complex services and composition. The exterior – a bronze-coloured aluminium cladding – is mirrored on the timber ceiling of the interior. This mirroring effect combined with the huge glazed sides provides natural lighting for the main pools. The building has a sensual nature to it, a real visual pleasure.
The George and Dragon Pub, Lambeth
Unfortunately, these plans had to be cancelled – as I’m sure the green moss gives away – as this pool is no more.
This is one of the ex-swimming pools that London could boast as its most absurd. The George and Dragon appears to be your average pub from its brick exterior and what’s left of its faint green signage in the images above. However, behind the garden’s 6ft wall lies a 6 metre long pool; clearly not intended for the athletic amongst you wanting to break your personal best. But for those getting boozy on a summers weekend; who wouldn’t be tempted by a dip!
The green water isn’t exactly making you want to jump in right now, but in its day, it must have been home to a banging neighbourhood party. I can imagine the youngsters of the area crowding around the poolside with the music loud, having too much K Cider and having way too much fun… Maybe that’s why it is no longer the ‘Pub with a Pool’…
Nowadays, the building has been converted into flats and little remains of it’s previous life. The Pub-Pool is a thing of the past.
King’s Cross Pond Club, King’s Cross, Ooze Architects and Marjetica Potrc, 2015
This swimming pool is for those who like to avoid the chlorine-cleansed containers that make up the majority. The pool is designed as an art installation and public facility as part of the King’s Cross redevelopment. It forms part of the Lewis Cubitt Park on the 27-hectare area of development behind King’s Cross Station. The site comprises the 40m x 10m pool basin, 8 changing rooms, lockers, showers and viewing platform.
We’re all about detoxing our bodies, so why not a natural cleansing system for a pool too? The pool uses natural processes to clean and filter its water; submerged plants are used as a non-mechanical and non-chemical treatment method for the water. Super clever right… or super lazy?! This ideology stems from the notion that the system should be self-sustaining; the body of water and the land all perform in cycle. Let Mother Nature do her work! This does then mean that the number of bathers allowed each day is limited, corresponding with the cleaning capacity of the plants. The pool is open-air and designed to function all year round… Could be a bit nippy in Winter, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Infinity Skypool, Shangri-La Hotel, The Shard, Renzo Piano, 2012
The Infinity Skypool at the Shangri-La Hotel, set on the 52nd floor of The Shard, has to be London’s pool with the most opulent view.
The Shangri-La’s pool is the highest swimming pool in Western Europe. Quite a feat for this 11 x 4 metre pool. The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the B.T. Tower and the London Eye are all winking from the vantage point, as you look out. In all honesty, I expected nothing less from the 5 star Shangri-La. I’m pretty sure its guests could spend hours mesmerised, hypnotised by the city skyline… forgetting they’ve wrinkled to a prune.
The architecture of The Shard itself adds to the wonder of its Skypool. It was designed by renowned Italian architect, Renzo Piano. Its form was inspired by the spires of London’s churches as depicted by the Venetian painter Canaletto. English Heritage are quoted as having said that the aesthetic of the building would be “a shard through the heart of historic London”, thus the name for the structure emerged. The uniqueness of the building combined with the breath-taking view and the sumptuous reputation of the Shangri-La mean that this pool is a must! Now, I wonder if there’s poolside cocktails…
These four very different, but unique swimming pools are all iconic in their own right. From slurping a pint, sipping on a cocktail, or gulping down Lucozade, these pools were and are the aquatic highlights that London has to offer. One more pool to look out for in the not so distant future, is the rooftop infinity pool at the Art’otel at Battersea Power Station designed by Foster + Partners. Good luck getting in!