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Jul 14

“Summer and the Pandemic: Lessons from Stuttgart, Germany on Public Pools” by Dr. Dale Medearis

Posted on July 14, 2020 at 8:55 AM by Bob Lazaro

The long, hot days of summer are moving people to seek relief outdoors.  They crave not only the openness of parks, but the cool relief of swimming.  Unfortunately, the COVID 19 pandemic has severely restricted access and availability to many parks and public swimming pools.  This has heightened the suffering of the poor, elderly and marginalized populations who suffer disproportionately from extreme heat.  It also highlights the need for planners of the region to accelerate the transformation of designing public swimming pools away from small isolated concrete buckets for just swimming, towards multi-functional park and sustainable spaces that are day-long oasis of natural canopies, recreation, cultural for multiple generations and people.  

The trend towards designing more multi-dimensional swim parks that serve environmental, social and cultural purposes is catching on in this region.  Inspiring designs and operations for public pools are becoming more common across Northern Virginia.  But there are still too many public pools that are mono-dimensionally designed, lack amenities and adequate public access that limit inclusion and relief.  Across the Atlantic in Germany, there are multiple examples of public pools that are ecologically designed and function as safe and healthy refuges for the public to escape the summer heat.   

Practically every city in Germany has public pools (“Freibad”).  German public pools are essentially pool areas built into multi-hectare parks intended to serve a range of social, environmental and cultural functions.  German public pools are built to accommodate swimming, diving, playing, wading for infants and water slides.  They are intentionally designed to serve multiple recreational purposes such as playgrounds and splash parks for children but also host sports venues such as volleyball or futsal.  There is abundant lawn space for sunbathing and lounging but also vast amounts of tree canopies too.  They invariably offer light dining, are accessible by public transportation, and some even host saunas and serve as venues for cultural events.  German public pools are affordable and considered a vital part of a city’s public services and infrastructure.

Now more than ever is the time to design park space that reflect the reality that summers will become warmer, the public’s right for cool and healthy recreational spaces – but most important, our country’s historical and social imperative to make public spaces such as pools inclusive and accessible.  Looking to the Stuttgart region of Germany is a superlative place to start.

City of Sindelfingen Pool
City of Sindelfingen Pool