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Lifestyle

Will a river pool turn Berlin's Mitte into a trashy beach party area?

How would a huge swimming area right by the Museum Island change Berlin? In his Berlin 24/7 column, DW's Gero Schliess explored the project "Flussbad Berlin" and believes the plan isn't as crazy as it sounds.

The project "Flussbad Berlin" aims to filter water entering the Spree Canal to turn a part of the river into a pool, right in the downtown Berlin district of Mitte.

Who could be against such a healthy sounding initiative? Still, the project is surrounded with controversy.

Opponents believe it will turn the area into a Spring Breakers' paradise. I see it as one of the few visionary projects urgently needed by this city.

A swimming competition was held in 2015 to promote the project Flussbad Berlin (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen)

A swimming competition was held in 2015 to promote the project

Splashing at the Pergamon Museum

What is it all about? Just close your eyes for a minute to imagine the scene: You could be swimming in an 800-meter-long (2,600-foot-long) pool in the Spree Canal, in the middle of Berlin's historic center, right by the Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting famous museums. You'd be splashing at the Pergamon Museum, so to speak. Doesn't that sound amazing?

Revitalizing Berlin's historic center

That's precisely the idea of the two architects of the project, brothers Jan and Tim Edler. For some time already, they have been reshaping the city's urban landscape with their group of artists and architects, called realities:united.

"Flussbad Berlin," their most ambitious project so far, is already at an advanced stage. Over 400 volunteers are supporting them. The German state and the Berlin Senate seem to be in favor of the project as well, providing them four million euros for a feasibility study.

08.2016 Kolumne Gero Schließ

Gero Schliess shares his insights from the capital in the weekly column, "Berlin 24/7"

"We're not crazy swimmers," Jan Edler told me at a promotional event of his initiative. His objective is to make the Spree Canal in the middle of the city more accessible and to revitalize the city's historic center.

The project is to be made ecologically sustainable thanks to a constructed wetland to filter the water. It sounds like the perfect plan to me.

Trashy beach in Berlin's historic center? 

But Berlin wouldn't be Berlin without strong opposition to the plan. For example, the established Berlin architect Bernd Albers sees the "swimming pool-like facility" near the Museum Island as "absurd and idiotic."

Others already dread the colorful parasols that will invade the space right by the historic museum buildings, along with smelly fast food stands and noisy alcohol drinkers. They worry the project would inevitably turn that area of Berlin into a big white trash beach.

Project Flussbad Berlin (Flussbad Berlin)

This is what the Flussbad Berlin could look like

Simply nonsense, says Jan Edler. The huge stairs leading into the water wouldn't leave any space for beach life.

Underlying this controversy is the old discussion between highbrow and popular culture that has affected many projects in Berlin, including the Carnival of Cultures.

Enough culture for everyone

A prominent prophet of Berlin's cultural decline is the painter Markus Lüpertz, who recently told me that Berlin was turning into a "wild youth state," simply content with people finding it "cool" to live there.  

I think that's quite alright. There's still enough highbrow culture on offer. Narrow-minded pessimists should trust the creative energies of the city. Berlin will not turn into a Spring Breakers' paradise. I deeply believe Berlin will stay Berlin.