Imagining Public Baths in a Clean False Creek

Vancouver Would Be Cooler If is a column that advocates for things that exist in other cities that could serve to improve or otherwise celebrate life in our own.

Birds-eye view of the Aarhus Harbour Bath complex | Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj, via BIG

When our Mayor ambitiously said this past winter that he wanted to see False Creek open for swimming this summer, I didn’t hold my breath. The guy could float to Galiano and back on wafts of his own hot air.

“Obviously, this is going to take a while [to clean up],” said Robertson, referring to the creek’s long history as an industrial area and dumping spot for sewage. “That body of water has been trashed for generations, and it’s only fairly recently that we’re collectively turning our attention to cleaning it up and making it safe and health for everyone who uses it.”

Still, ambition is good, right? And you have to start somewhere, like making False Creek something other than the dead end, slow-to-flush, horrifically abused industrial/sewage dump it has been since Vancouver’s beginnings. If you were to go swimming in the otherwise outwardly attractive body of water today, chances are you’d get pretty sick. We’re talking rashes and vomiting, maybe even a third hand growing out of your neck. This summer has seen pollution levels in False Creek exceed four times the “safe” limit, so you never know.

To put a fine point on it, the situation has gotten especially shitty. As per the CBC: “Animal and human fecal contamination should not exceed 200 E.coli per 100 millilitres of water, according to Vancouver Coastal Health. But for six weeks since May, levels have exceeded 500 — hitting a high of 926 at the end of May.” Ugh.

But a fix isn’t impossible. In Denmark, the city of Aarhus somehow figured it out, cleaning up the river that runs through it (also once considered a sewer) using an intelligent drainage system. Granted, a river is a completely different animal from the unique tidal beast that is False Creek, but the Vancouver Would Be Cooler If… column is always framed in an at least a little bit of fantasy.

Residents enjoy the new Aarhus Harbour Bath complex | Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj, via BIG

The move has allowed for the development of glorious new harbour baths by a local firm called Bjarke Ingels Group. It’s a monumental project, and one I think all Vancouverites would love to see on False Creek’s shore, if only the water wasn’t so disgusting and dangerous. From The Spaces:

“Residents in Denmark’s Aarhus can cool off in a new harbourfront bath house complex designed by BIG – and it’s the largest seawater structure of its kind. Aarhus Harbour Bath can accommodate 650 bathers and juts out from the shore of the city’s Bassin 7. The triangular floating complex comprises a rectangular 50-metre-long swimming pool, circular diving pool, square children’s pool and two saunas. It is enclosed by an elevated plank walkway, which doubles as a viewing platform overlooking the pools and water beyond.”

The new project opened at the start of summer and has been an immediate hit with residents and visitors, who no doubt would love to have something just like it back home. Like Vancouver, the city of Aarhus (Denmark’s second largest) endured quite the heat wave in July, so what a relief this must have been! It is only open for the summer months (closes Sept. 1); I trust it would operate similarly here in Vancouver, if we ever got our act together and stopped…you know, defecating on the possibility. Can you imagine? Take a closer look.

– Photography: Rasmus Hjortshøj, courtesy of BIG –

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There is 1 comment

  1. Andrew, lets be real at this point, Gregor could circumnavigate the globe a few times and still make it to the moon and back.

    This pool looks pretty lit though. Maybe we can get them to do after they finish Vancouver House.

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