Happy Cities Series: Swimming Cities

A swimming city obviously is about water.

It is stinking hot in New York and I would like a pool, right now!  I’m not the best swimmer but swimming is likely a happiness activity because it changes context – you can float, weight is different, and it is immersive.  There is a freedom of exploration that comes with it.    It is mostly associated with summer at beaches, water parks and pools to me.

A swimming city would have:

Access to natural rivers, lakes, beaches safe enough to swim in. Traveling to various places overseas, I have definitely appreciated some of natural assets in Queensland much more. While in Toronto, seemed like noone really swam in Lake Ontario.

Access to public pools. I overheard a conversation saying New York pools have an early bird special, that is free before a certain time (8am?).

Pools integrated into landscape. I think I worked at Tract Consultants long enough to continue to be big fan of Cairns Lagoon (pictured) and also like Southbank’s beach- there is reasons why these pool are successful.  Largely I think because they aren’t treated as just a blue box, but as an urban design feature.  Though having said that one of the coolest pool designs I did blog about years ago was the Bathing Ship in Berlin

Learn to swim education.

I can’t actually swim that well but would be something I want to improve.  In a community planning class, many years ago in Inala, it was revealed that many kids of migrants would often not learn to swim, if their parents could not.  My parents can’t and we are certainly not a water-sports kind of family.    While interviewing with Rockaway Alliance, the director also described how many people in that low income community could not swim.  So despite living near the longest strength of natural beach in New York, people would often avoid the water, and kids were taught that it was dangerous or not a place to be. In doing so the beach probably goes unappreciated and its values (environmental and social) become less strong in a community which lives right near it.


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