The best public pools around the world

The attraction of Jubilee Pool has been reinforced, says Scott-Whitby, by “a huge interest in swimming and feeling of optimism post-pandemic”. Wood agrees: “The pandemic made us appreciate what is local to us. Lidos also appeal because people are pushing back against our digital age and appreciating the sensual, experiential qualities of swimming.”

Another early 20th-Century seawater pool still in operation is Bondi Icebergs Club in Sydney, originally called The Icebergs Swimming Club and established in 1929 by lifeguards who wanted to maintain their fitness by swimming during the winter months. At the south end of Bondi Beach, it comprises a 50m-long adults’ pool and a shallow, 25m-long childrens’ pool (both unheated) – it’s now open all year round. Other features include hot showers, a poolside restaurant, a sauna and a museum documenting its history. 

In 1999, Icelandic practice Basalt Architects masterminded Blue Lagoon, a string of geothermally-heated pools integrated into a rugged, volcanic landscape, and in 2021 Guðlaug Baths, also in Iceland, which incorporates two pools, one heated geothermally by a hot spring. Another Icelandic practice, Úti og Inni Architects, created pool complex Árbæjarlaug Árbæja in 1993. “This features an indoor pool – with a glazed dome that draws daylight in – which connects to an outdoor pool,” says one of its architects, Baldur Ó Svavarsson. “It also has a slide with water gushing down it, propelling those who ride it into a deep part of the pool to ensure no one is hurt. Another attraction is its hot tubs. Many people don’t swim, and like to sit in the tubs and discuss politics.”

Natural springs also feed into Barton Springs Pool, a three-acre, artificial bathing pool with a limestone base built in the channel of a creek in Austin, Texas. The surrounding landscape boasts grassy slopes where swimmers can dry off after swimming or find shade in the many trees surrounding the pool.

There is also an abundance of open-air pools in Copenhagen. Architects Bjarke Ingels Group designed the city’s Harbour Bath, completed in 2003. Boasting pools of different depths, including a diving pool, it accommodates 600 people, and simulates a beach setting with its piers and boardwalk-like decking.

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