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Works stall reopening of Ixelles swimming pool

15:47 13/01/2024

Brussels’ oldest swimming pool, an architectural gem built in May 1904, whcih shut for the second time for major renovation works in September 2019, will remain closed for at least another six months.

The promised reopening of Ixelles swimming pool is now not expected until September 2024 – nearly three years later than planned.

Beliris, the Brussels construction, renovation and restoration agency overseeing the works, explained that "it is important that the swimming pool can last another century".

It added: " To achieve a durable result, two additional interventions that were not planned are necessary."

First, the skylight in the swimming pool’s main hall has to be removed due to waterproofing problems. It needs to be completely dismantled and replaced with a new structure. Triple glazing will be put in at the same time.

In addition, cracks have appeared in the new cement work of the swimming pool floor.

Created by renowned French architect François Hennebique (1842-1921), it is one of the first times that reinforced concrete was used in Belgium. Notable later examples include Eglise Saint-Augustin in Forest and Joseph Diongre’s Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Molenbeek.

“This makes it an important element of Brussels heritage,” Beliris said, which is why we needed to find a solution with experts.

“The aim is to ensure that this classified building, which was in a very bad state before work started, can continue for another century without having to undergo another renovation of this size.”

The works will facilitate school trips as the annex building will be created into a separate changing room and sports hall. There will be access for people with reduced mobility and modernised technical infrastructure.

Finally, the new pool will meet current hygiene norms, for example by installing a foot bath, which is needed before entering the pool hall.

What the renovation will not do is spoil the swimming pool’s original character, notably the ability to change in individual cabins around the pool. These are opened after your swim by the pool staff, meaning there is no need to put clothes and belongings in lockers.

As the pool was classified in 2007, its main architectural highlights – the main hall, entrance and these individual changing rooms – cannot be altered. The tiles on the floor, for example, have been painstakingly replaced with versions as identical as possible to the originals.

The former plastic liner on the pool - aptly located on Rue de la Natation - has gone, to be replaced by little ceramic tiles similar to those used when the pool first opened some 120 years ago.

Ixelles residents and swimming pool lovers will be disappointed to hear of the further delay to this €8.5 million project, which is funded 68% by Beliris and 32% by Ixelles commune. But this was only to be expected, given the general length of time needed to renew traditional pools.

In Saint-Josse, the Piscine Saint-François, a stunning Art Deco/Modernist gem built in 1933, reopened in late 2019, seven years off schedule, after nearly 10 years behind scaffolding. Neighbouring Neptunium in Schaerbeek, a 1950s delight, also spent six years in the shadows, twice the time planned, before its grand reopening last September.

Finally, the 30 months estimated to restore and renovate Saint-Gilles’ Piscine Victor Le Boin, which shut on 30 June 2023, is again very optimistic.

Inaugurated in 1905, one year later than neighbouring Ixelles, this is another old-style pool enjoying a similar layout as Ixelles with changing rooms surrounding the water.

Photo: Beliris

Written by Liz Newmark