Green commuting: In London, swim to work

Canals hauled goods around Britain in the Industrial Age. Clean them up, and they could could once again transport raw materials: humans for the knowledge economy. Self-propelled humans, that is.

"Clean coal." Canals could haul the modern knowledge economy's raw materials - humans - rather than the sooty black lumps they helped transport in industrial times.


Man-made canals were the arteries of Industrial Age Britain, as barges hauled finished goods, coal and other raw materials around the country. They have fallen into commercial disuse, but now, one architectural firm has a grand idea to rejuvenate their contribution: turn them into commuter swimming lanes.

YN Studio has proposed cleaning up the 8.6-mile long Regents Canal in London and establishing it as a long, purposeful swimming lane, or "lido" as outdoor pools are known in the UK.

I love their economic philosophy. "The city's canals have lost their original purpose," London-based YN says on its website. "By inserting a clean, safe 'basin' in which to swim, the 'Lidoline' flips the Regents Canal back to its orginal purpose, connecting raw materials (workers) to the placeof proudction (work), making swimming a viable alternative to cycling or walking to work."

That's not Holland. It's London in the vision of YN Studio.

YN's concept won second place in a competition seeking ideas for reclaiming derelict public spaces in London, and inspired by New York City's High Line , the disused elevated rail line that's now a popular green park in lower Manhattan.

"The Lidoline would form a new network for London, making existing space greater than the sum of their parts, rather than blindly multiplying under-used, functionless 'green space'," YN says.

Outdoor swimming in a London winter? Is someone providing wetsuits? Glad you asked. YN proposes morphing the lane into an ice skating conduit come the cold weather. Never mind that it doesn't really get frigid enough in London to sustain a safe, frozen passageway. I like the creative thinking.

Perhaps the impractical nature of the project explains why it had to settle for runner-up in the "High Line for London" contest, backed by the Landscape Institute, Mayor Boris Johnson, and the Garden Museum

The winning idea has a slightly more practical side. I'll tell you all about it in a separate post. For now, a hint: Look out below.

Images from YN Studio website.

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