5 Odd Things You Should Know Before Taking a Dip in King’s Cross Pond
Article by Win Phyo
King’s Cross Pond Club, by Ooze Architects, in London, UK.
Welcome to King’s Cross Pond Club – a natural swimming pool born from the collaboration between Netherlands-based Ooze Architects and Slovenian artist Marjetica Potrc.
This alliance has resulted in a unique practical swimming facility that is also a beautiful landscape feature. It is situated in the heart of King’s Cross regeneration area and as you might have guessed already, it is not your typical swimming pool.
Now, there are many other peculiar things associated with this pool that break down habits of stereotyping and will possibly make you reconsider the notions of what constitutes an artistic design project.
The King’s Cross Pond Club
1. It is in the Middle of a Construction Site
The area north of King’s Cross station has been redeveloped, since 2007, into a vibrant new city quarter. As a way to celebrate the industrial heritage of this area and its future, as well as to ease the inconvenient disruptions, a number of contemporary art projects have been popping up throughout the venture’s duration of nine years. King’s Cross Pond Club is the final installation of the programme.
When it opened to the public in May 2015, visitors passed through the brick warehouses, the cranes and the rubble. Essentially, this is an intentionally juxtaposed position for urbanites who come to swim knowing that they will be exposed in a rough and noisy kind of surrounding.
2. It is More of an Art Installation Than a Swimming Pool
The partnership of Ooze Architects and Marjetica Potrc has created this pool with artistic resonance. In fact, it is titled “Of Soil and Water,” highlighting the importance of soil and water – the two natural resources that we are highly reliant on yet take for granted. The small-scale project is seen as a “living laboratory” that tests and questions the balancing, self-sustaining system of one natural cycle: the water, the land and the human body.
Ooze Architects explains that the creation is all about having a dialogue between nature and the city:
“The aim is communication with the visitors, describing the balance of man with nature, and the balance of living in a sustainable city”- Eva Pfannes, Ooze Architects
This juxtaposition of a purely natural installation against the urban environment is obvious. The experience for the visitor is to become a part of the ecosystem. The swimmers become actors onstage, performing a balancing act of co-existing with nature. This dialogue becomes even more striking when the exposure becomes more palpable – seeing the site workers in goggles, helmets and gloves in the surrounding building site whilst the half-clothed swimmers perform a primitive act.
It is the participation in this art installation that the architects and the artist find so fascinating. Since the pool is natural and works by using plantings as natural filters, there are rules swimmers have to follow to respect that natural process. This makes them aware that it is a fine relationship with limits; hence it is as much about giving participants an intellectual awareness as well as a sensual experience.
Nevertheless, the swimming pool will only be there until the end of 2016 as it only has planning permission for two years.
3. It Follows the Current Trend of London Joining into the Natural, Open-Air Swimming Pool Craze
Of Soil and Water is actually one of a number of trendy swimming projects in London. Studio Octopi has secured funds on Kickstarter for Thames Baths and plans to resurrect Peckham Lido are underway. However, neither of these will offer the experience of dipping in the water with the backdrop of construction cranes.
This project is unique in that respect and could really convince not just the public but also those in authority, such as the planners, of its practical functions and for the value of natural swimming becoming a standard practice in the UK.
4. Human Skin Helps the Pool Flourish
We are used to water being chlorinated. However, chlorine is a disinfectant which kills everything. Yet here is a natural system filled with oxygen and cleansing bacteria. There are three parts to the pool: a swimming zone, a regeneration zone and a filtering zone.
Simply speaking, the Biotop system, developed by Austrian natural swimming pool developers, filters any particles bigger than 0.3mm, killing algae that can contaminate the pool but allowing through healthy zooplankton for the plants in the gravel beds such as water lilies and waterweed.
Other planting in the filtration zone includes iris, water mint, marsh marigolds and purple loosestrife. These filter plants release oxygen from their roots that attract bacteria which break down pollutants and eat other bacteria. Did you know that humans also play a role in this natural process? Our skin contains certain kinds of nutrients that plants like to absorb.
It is all about balance and the natural cycle. Hence, the system can only allow for 163 pool users daily to protect the system’s capacity and not to disrupt the fine balance.
5. The Project Fails to Fall Under any Category
But that is a good thing! Can you say “King’s Cross Pond Club” is an art project, an architecture project or a landscape project? Or is it urban placemaking? The multidisciplinary and layered approach of this scheme is one that takes us beyond the classifications of the last century.\
The project addresses many different issues hence it doesn’t seem to exclude any creative profession. In a way, this is what the project is all about. It is about celebrating the heritage whilst embracing the new. Our society is complex because we are beginning to live in a more multifaceted world and it is important that we can all handle this change.
King’s Cross Pond Club provides a simple experience that makes a point about our interaction with nature. The project might seem small in size and peculiar in its context for now, but this could well be the beginnings of something revolutionary! If well-used, it may become a long-term feature within the development.
What about yourself: would you take a dip in the “pond”? Let us know in the comments below!
Full Project Credits For The Natural Bathing Pond by Ooze Architects
Project: ‘of Soil And Water’: The King’s Cross Pond Club
Project Description: Natural Bathing Pond And Its Landscape
Location: King’s Cross, London, UK
Area: 2200m2, 400 M² – Pool
Client: King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership
Curator: Stephanie Delcroix & Michael Pinsky
Designer: Ooze Architects and Artist Marjetica Potrc
Natural Pool Consultant: BIOTOP Austria
Project date: May 2015 until the end of 2016
Authors: Ooze (Eva Pfannes & Sylvain Hartenberg) And Marjetica Potrč
Curator: Stéphanie Delcroix & Michael Pinsky
Project Manager: Ian Freshwater – Argent Llp -UK
Qs: Gardiner & Theobald – UK
Water Engineering: Biotop & Planungsbüro Wasserwerkstatt – Austria
Structural Engineering: Arup – UK
Utilities Engineering: Hoare Lea And Peter Brett Associates – UK
Specific Pioneer Landscape: Rita Breker-kremer & Stefanie Strauß – D
Participatory Workshops: Global Generation – UK
& Landscape Maintenance
Monitoring: Central Saint Martins – Students Of Spatial Practices Department – UK
Main Contractor: Carillion – UK
Technical Drawings: Bd Landscape – UK
Natural Pool System: Biotop – Austria
Pool Contractor: Kingcombe Aquacare – UK
Hard & Part Soft Landscape: Willerby – UK
Groundworks: Galldris – UK
Other Water Systems: Cameron Lonsdale – UK
Outbuilds: Setworks & Houston Cox – UK
The Authors Would Like To Thank: All Clear Access, Townsend Landscape Architects, Ald, RLSS
Anna Strongman/Argent, Ken Trew/Argent, Steve Alderson/Argent , Rosie Cade/Argent , Nick Foster/Argent, Amanda Buckley, Rebecca Bennett/Argent, Hannah Alderton/Argent, Megan Youell/Argent, Alan D Sowden/Carillion, Steven Windless/Carillion, Graeme K Tucker/Carillion, Brad Henderson/Carillion, Des Smith/Willerby, Jane Riddiford/Global Generation, Paul Richens/Global Generation, Ciara Wilkinson/Global Generation, Robert Townshend, Tim O’hare, Christine Fent & Gilma Wendt, François Cassin.
Learn more about Ooze Architects:
- Becoming an Urban Planner: A Guide to Careers in Planning and Urban Design by Michael Bayer
- Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature by Douglas Farrs
Article by Win Phyo
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