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Reclaim the river

The last time swimmers were able to bathe in the River Spree was 1925 when it was closed due to increasing pollution. William Thorpe met a group of Berliners who have gained support from the government to turn a section of the river into a swimming area in time to open in 2025–100 years after the ban
An artist’s impression of how the Spree Canal would be transformed into a swimming pool, located alongside Berlin’s historic museum island
Photo: realities:united / Flussbad Berlin e.V. 2015

Cities over the world are turning to their rivers to rejuvenate areas and create new public spaces. From Medellin to Seoul, cities have introduced clean-ups and park developments over the past decades that have brought life back to oftendilapidated areas. Some old riverbeds have even been turned into new urban parklands, like in Valencia, Spain which diverted its river around the city in the 1960s.

Yet, Berlin wants to take this further and clean up one section of its river enough to allow public swimming. Although Copenhagen has implemented this in its open water harbour, Berlin will be one of the first to implement this in a big city river.

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