London architecture firm Studio Octopi has designed concepts for the creation of natural swimming pools in the River Thames. The designs were a response to "London As It Could Be Now," an open call ideas project developed by The Architecture Foundation with Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and the Royal Academy of Arts. Participants were asked explore ideas that raised awareness of the Thames and increased people’s interaction with it.

Studio Octopi describes its Thames Baths Project as “an intimate and playful link between Londoners and the historic lifeblood of the city, the River Thames.” The pools are supported by timber and steel piles that allow them to rise and fall with the tide. As well as providing an attraction for swimmers, they would provide a habitat for fish, birds and a range of flora.

Areas adjacent to the swimming pools would mimic the salt marshes found along the Thames to actively improve the river’s ecology. The salt-marsh areas would be a mix of planted and naturally colonizing plants such as rushes, water plantains and ferns.

The Thames Baths concept was initially based upon plans by Thames Water to construct a new "Super Sewer," the Thames Tideway Tunnel (due for completion in 2023 planning permission dependent), that if completed will remove 96 percent of sewage currently entering the Thames. The initial designs are based at Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore and King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore, two of the proposed sites for the Thames Tunnel construction. Whilst the tunnel isn't a necessity for the proposal to be moved forward, a clean-up program of some sort for the Thames would be required in its absence.

According to Studio Octopi, Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s London sewage system, that was constructed 1865, is at the limit of its capacity and in 2012 a total of 39 million tonnes of sewage was released into the Thames as a result of 57 combined sewer overflows. The Thames Tideway Tunnel would supposedly reduce this figure to a maximum of four overflows per year.

Similar projects are aimed at building swimming pools in the rivers of New York City and Berlin.

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