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Thames Lido, Reading - in its current condition

Thames Lido, Reading – in its current condition

The experience of an early morning or evening swim in an outdoor pool is hard to beat – a serenely calm atmosphere with no acoustic reverberations. Plus – all weather is more enjoyable from this vantage point: the sound of rain splashing on the water is particularly soothing – how else to embrace Summer showers?

Outdoor pools, or ‘lidos’ (Italian for ‘beach’) as they became known from the 1930s, hold a special place in our collective memory – associated with childhood, sun and lazy days. Many were closed in the 1950s and more recently have been the focus for community campaign groups for their re-opening to resurrect their role.

What if their role expanded beyond Summer? A four-season pool would establish new associations and initiate scenarios of swimming in the snow! Or how about a twilight swim of an Autumn? Some lidos inspire a redevelopment to define a new era.

One such building facing a rebirth is that at King’s Meadow in Reading. Grade II listed it is described by English Heritage as ‘…an extremely rare and fine example of a complete Edwardian lido’. Built in 1902 the pool was constructed to allow women to bathe in privacy and was originally fed from the adjacent Thames.

Closed since 1972 it has caught the imagination of a developer to transform it into ‘Thames Lido’ – a heated pool with spa and restaurant facilities. The developer, Thames Lido Ltd, has used a similar business model at Bristol Lido to much success. Architecturally the treatment at Bristol of full height glazing to the pool surround and visually trickery of an ‘infinity’ pool will be implemented at Reading. This will involve the resizing of the pool in width to incorporate the restaurant, and depth (currently 3m at the Deep End) to facilitate heating costs of the water volume. Click here for information on Bristol Lido.

Currently in an unloved state Thames Lido was opened for 4 hours on May 24th 2014 for the public to have a snoop around. Intrigued? I made a short video of my visit to capture a sense of its lido-significance.

(If you can’t see the video link click here.)

Do you have any lido-saving stories to share? Are some alterations justified to enable both the saving of a pool and to meet our present day lifestyle?

If adaptation is not embraced then does a pool as a ‘museum’ make sense? Are some lidos left to dereliction to make an end game of demolition easier on the conscience with each passing generation?

Other links:

BBC Berkshire news story of renovation of Thames Lido: click here

History of Lidos: click here