The mysteriously murky Yarra River could very well be your new local swimming haunt if the Yarra Swim Co plans go ahead.
Under the $6 million proposal, released on Thursday night as part of Australia’s entry in the 15th Venice Architectural Biennale, a floating pontoon with a 25-metre lap pool and children’s play pool will be anchored on the banks of the Yarra, near the city’s Enterprize Park.
Yarra Swim Co, a Melbourne-based not-for-profit organisation committed to creating a swimmable Yarra River, believes the pools could improve the culture of the Southbank area.
“The Yarra has so much potential. Everyone can connect to the water. We want to create a space where people can swim, and also hang out,” says Matt Stewart, president of Yarra Swim Co.
Designed by the UK’s Studio Octopi (who designed the current Thames Baths proposal in London), Yarra Pools will be similar to “urban lidos” found in Copenhagen and Zurich. Melbourne’s pools will use a unique filtration system – involving the dredging of an existing salt wedge – which purifies the river water and makes it hygienic for swimmers.
Yarra Riverkeeper Andrew Kelly asserts that despite it being illegal to swim in the Yarra due to boat traffic, the current water quality of the river is safe to swim in the majority of the time (though after rainfall, it’s questionable).
“It’s no more dangerous than eating at a Melbourne restaurant,” he says.
At a press conference held out the front of the Melbourne Town Hall this morning, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was receptive to the idea of Yarra Pools.
“It’s an intriguing proposal and it could be an amazing attraction. We’ve worked very hard to activate the Southbank area. It could be a wonderful addition to our city,” Doyle said.
If funding and approval are granted, The Yarra Swim Co plans to create a trial pop-up, called the Yarra Splash Project, which could be launched as early as summer 2017.