Urban Plunge

New designs for natural swimming in our cities, curated by Jane Withers, Wonderwater

Launching to coincide with the London Design Festival (13-21 September 2014), Urban Plunge explores both existing schemes and future visions for river swimming in the heart of our cities.

Commissioned by Roca London Gallery, it showcases international design and architectural projects that transform urban rivers into public leisure spaces, giving people an exciting new, water level perspective on their metropolis.

Curator Jane Withers, a design consultant and co-founder of Wonderwater, has selected five key projects to illustrate architecture and design’s role in radically changing river usage, challenging our attitude to the urban water environment.

Urban Plunge shows drawings, models and photography that document these projects, including Denmark’s scheme to transform Copenhagen harbour from an industrial and transportation junction into the city’s cultural and social centre. The sculptural Harbour Baths (JDS Architects) have already proved an incredible success in bringing new life to the harbour area, while HOW | House of Water (Tredje Natur), is a visionary idea for a new island for Copenhagen harbour dedicated to education about water and the environment

Urban Plunge is showing two UK schemes, one for a series of permanent central London river bathing stations - Studio Octopi’s Thames Baths - and the other, King’s Cross Pond Club (Ooze & Marjetica Potrč ), a temporary pool on the King’s Cross development site opening this autumn that will create an enclave for public use in the private land under construction. The water will be purified through a natural process using wetland plants to create a refreshing and clean swimming experience only 15 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross station.

+ POOL in New York (Family New York & PlayLab), is already a phenomenal success story having surpassed its Kickstarter fundraising target to create the world’s first river water-filtering floating swimming pool proposed to live in the middle of the East River in New York City. In addition, the + POOL team has launched a Dashboard for the public along with Google Drive, a digital tool that will monitor New York’s water quality on LIVE time. + POOL is scheduled to launch in 2016. 

Capturing the zeitgeist for natural swimming experiences around the world, theprojects reveal imaginative ways to enrich urban water experience and humanize our cities. They also act as a wake-up call to make us realize that what we flush down the toilet or pour down the drain impacts on our water environment and thus on the quality of urban life.

Jane Withers says: “I am delighted to see that companies like Roca are questioning our neglect of this most vital resource and championing a new water culture. The possibility to change city rivers, from undervalued thoroughfares to places where we can swim, offers amazing opportunities for new urban experiences and wellbeing, as the projects showcased in Urban Plunge demonstrate. Roca’s We are Water Foundation and their support of public exhibitions and events like this can really bring awareness to influencers and those who can make a difference to the way we treat our water.”

Roca London Gallery manager Eva Woode says: “We are very proud to be able to give this important global survey a platform. We are organizing several talks during the run of the exhibition that will enable people to hear how architects and designers are finding solutions to enable swimming in our cities. We hope that the exhibition will inspire people to think differently about water and that it will help contribute to finding ways of improving urban life.”

Exhibition design/graphics by Mentsen.


London Design Festival Event:

Monday 15th September

Panel Discussion: 18.30 – 19.00

To mark the opening of the exhibition Urban Plunge, a panel of key voices discusses the city’s waterway and raise the question;will we soon be swimming in the Thames again? The panel, including curator Jane Withers, Chris Romer Lee (Studio Octopi), Caitlin Davies (author of The Wild Swimmer) and Johanna Agerman Ross (Editor-in-Chief, Disegno) will explore what it takes to make the river a leisure space and how innovation in design can develop a new cityscape for London.

Private View: 19.00 – 20.30

Join us for light refreshments and a first look at Urban Plunge:


Where to find us

Fairs and events calendar

Urban Plunge

Event date

Event schedule

11 September 2014 – 7th February 2015
Monday - Friday 9:00 - 17.30.
Saturday 11:00 - 17:00.
Last Tuesday of every month until 20:00.

Urban Plunge
Talk: Designing the future urban swimming experience

Wednesday 5th November
18.30 - 20.30
For more information and to RSVP click here >>