Monday, September 2, 2013

Tribute to Victoria Park Swimming Pool

Summer is coming to an end. So is the life of the Victoria Park Outdoor Swimming Pool. It closed its gates yesterday at 10 pm for the last time.

Being a passionate swimmer myself, I am deeply saddened by the closure of this wonderful urban experience. For the past few years I have spent my daily morning swim in that pool. The best moments were at the beginning of the outdoor swimming season when water was freezing cold and only me and 10 lifeguards were around in the chilling morning sun. My children learned swimming in the pool. I was with them from the time of their first clumsy approaches in the water to the moment they glide naturally through the deep blue.

Nights at the pool where startling. The pool lied at the edge of Victoria Park, surrounded by the city that formed a formidable background to the scene. The moment the sun set, buildings began to sparkle. First as a reflection of the setting sun, then as a powerful skyline of artificial lights. Whoever knows Hong Kong, knows the seduction of its skyline at night: the fascination of the behemoth of urban invention and innovation.

And in the middle of the city was this giant pool (during hot summers a rather overheated jacuzzi) from where you could enjoy the beauty of the skyline. It always was a magical and surreal moment, floating in the water and watch the city passing by, day as night alike.

To me, the swimming pool and the already demolished Kai Tak airport were some of the few formidable metropolitan sights of Hong Kong. They were proofs of the intense effects and collisions of a hyper dense city. But they also demonstrated that you could be at peace within this moloch of a city; it showed that the collision and confrontation can create urban poetry at its best.

Opened in 1957, the pool has been one of the oldest outdoor pools of Hong Kong, one of the few with a 5m diving pool and a 50 m lap pool with a 10 m dive board. It also features a grand stand for public viewing and a restaurant with pool view. The beauty of the pool lies in its design of the boundaries to the surrounding park. The park landscape was seamlessly translating into the water landscape. Changing rooms were placed under the grand stand to reduce the architectural impact of the pool.

To my dissatisfaction, the newly constructed indoor pool next door is a large scale architectural mass, with no relation to the context. The design has not benefitted from the subtleness of the outdoor pool, nor from the function of a park as an urban open area for the public. An alien like, disproportionate podium block was designed, which rather resembles a shopping mall than a public swimming pool for leisure and enjoyment. It is understood that an indoor pool is a building, an outdoor pool is a landscape: However a six story disproportionate glass blob which seals off its interior from the surrounding park is a rather cynical answer towards a positive transformation of the city.

It is a shame as the city of Hong Kong missed the chance (again) to encourage excellency for its public buildings. Instead, they apply commercial and economic logic to their civic construction as well and neglect the social, spatial and historical components that have made Hong Kong what it is in the first place.

Luckily swimming requires a certain functionality. So I will find myself at peace with the new venue as long as it features a clean 50 m pool and enough space to swim.

However there must be a reason that the pool was one of the most beloved leisure venues of the citizens. During my last swim at 10 pm, there were a lot of people inside the pool. Most enjoyed the last opportunity to dive in a 5 m deep 50 m olympic size pool. In fact the bottom at 5 m was the most crowded as there will be no pool anymore of this depth. There was a large crowd at the stand, taking pictures of the great view, chatting with the lifeguards and silently but happily and enjoying the scene. Most likely some of them contemplated wether the new pool will be as enriching to the city as the old one.

When we left the pool as one of the last, we left with the certainty that Hong Kong has sacrificed another urban jewel of its glorious past to the genericness of the commercial world.

© 2013, ice - ideas for contemporary environments


  1. Agree with you totally about the loss of the pool. It's atrocious they would get rid of a facility that served the families of the area to replace it with one for serving athletes coming from outside Hong Kong. They could have at least built a more mixed-use complex like the new Kwun Tong one that includes outdoor and kids areas instead of having a lifeless roof. This is compounded by the slicing off of more park land for another highway. Wondering whether these moves may violate the original terms of the Jockey Club's donations for the park and the pool.....

  2. Very good point you make here.

    I don't think that the original terms of the donation are violated or the Jockey club would have protested already. However, the government seems to feel slightly guilty about the pool and its poor replacement. Therefor they released the following press release:

    "...The swimming pool was very popular among local residents. In the first year after its opening, over 360 000 swimmers used the pool. As of today, the pool's accumulated attendance has reached over 15 million.

    In recognition of the public's wish to preserve the memory of the old swimming pool where practicable, the LCSD has identified some items of historical significance and characteristics at the old pool, including the plaque unveiled by Sir Alexander and the stonework of the low wall facing the public entrance. The department is exploring the possibility of displaying some of these items at appropriate locations within the Victoria Park for commemoration purposes. In addition, it will make use of 3D laser scanning technology to produce a full record of the architectural design of the old pool.

    The LCSD is also working on a display of information and old photos as well as a video production relating to the old swimming pool. It plans to display these materials for public appreciation later this year…."

    Full Text here:

  3. Apparently they told the District Council that families could instead go to the pool now at Sai Wan Ho, which is neither outdoors nor nearby.... I doubt the Jockey Club would raise an issue either way, it'd probably take a concerned citizen digging up the documents, which don't seem to be online.

  4. You’re right. it is quite sad that they seem to go for the convenience of space rather than replicating the feel and appeal of the open pool. At the very least, they could’ve gone with a design that you can still see the view despite being indoors; a clear roof or something of the sort.


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  6. لان مشكلة انسداد الأحواض و مواسير الصرف و المجاري ، من المشكلات المزعجة للغاية و الغير محتملة ، نظرًا لما تسببه من رائحة كريهة لا تطاق سواء
    شركة تسليك مجارى بالدمام فريق عمل خبير لحل مشكلة المجاري باقوي الالات العالمية فى تسليك المجاري نصلك في اي مكان خصومات شركة تسليك مجارى بالخبر عزيزى العميل اذا اردت الحصول على مجارى نظيفة وخالية من الاوساخ والانسدادات التى تعتبر من الشركات الرائدة فى اعمال شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض

  7. تعرف علي افضل خدمات صيانة كاريير الذي يوفر اجود انواع الاجهزه الكهربائية المنزلية وبأقل الاسعار مع وجود خدمات توكيل كاريير وبأقل الاسعار التي تتميزها بها الشركة يمكنك التواصل مع رقم صيانة كاريير في اي وقت الان

  8. الان نوفر اليكم شركة تنظيف منازل بالخبر من مؤسسة ابراج دبي والتي تعمل علي خدمة العملاء في اي وقت واي مكان في السعودية والتي توفرها لضمان ازالة البقع والاوساخ من كل اثاث المنزل كما اننا نعمل علي راحتكم من خلال شركة مكافحة حشرات بالخبر تواصل الان معنا للمزيد من الخدمات والعروض .

  9. عروض زراعة الشعر في تركيا من اكبر المراكز المعتمدة التي يمكنك الاستعانه بها للتعرف علي المزيد من خدماتها المتميزه الان فقط تواصل معنا للحصول علي زراعة الشعر باحدث الطرق والمعدات الطبية .

  10. لطلب خدمات صيانة كاريير يمكنك التواصل معهم الان في اي مكان من مصر لارسال خبراء متخصصين من كبري التوكيلات توكيل كاريير فقط تواصل الان معنا للتعرف علي مزيد من الخدمات وباقل التكاليف حيث اننا نوفر اليكم الان خدماتنا من خلال خبراء من صيانة تكييفات كاريير لذلك تواصل معنا الان في اي وقت من اجل ارسال فريق متخصص .

  11. افضل الخدمات من صيانة كريازي تواصل معهم الان في اي وقت ومن اي مكاتن في مصر عن طريق مجموعه من خدمات خدمة عملاء كريازي حيث اننا نوفر الان مزيد من العروض والخدمات وباقل الاسعار تواصل معنا الان عبر رقم توكيل كريازي لارسال فريق من عمال الصيانة والفنيين المتخصصين يمكنك الان التواصل معهم في اي وقت .

  12. مهام شركة تسويق الكتروني تتم علي ايدي فريق متخصص يمكنه العمل باحدث الطرق والاساليب وباقل الاسعار من خلال اشرف فريق متخصص من شركة تصميم مواقع تواصل معه يوميا وعلي مدار ال 24 ساعة للتعرف علي المزيد من الخدمات .

  13. عروض شركة نقل عفش بمكة من شركة الاخلاص والامانه تعرف عليها الان في اي وقت من خلال المزيد من خدماتها في اسرع وقت ممكن علي ايدي خبراء في اعمال نقل عفش مكة احصل علي الخدمة الان في اي وقت عند الحاجه الي خدمات متميزه .

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