“Into the Blue: the origin and revival of pools, swimming baths and lidos” at Victoria and Albert Museum

From Roman baths and Victorian bathhouses to contemporary swimming spaces, this summer the V&A + RIBA Architecture Partnership will explore the architectural, cultural and social importance of swimming pools and lidos in the UK.


Saltdean Lido, East Sussex, by R.W.H Jones, 1938 © John Maltby RIBA Collections


Many communal bathing areas were designed for far more than swimming: originally crucial for providing public access to washing and laundry facilities, they became community hubs where people could socialise, sunbathe, read or just think, all within the context of enjoying the positive physical, curative and psychological benefits of bathing.


“Into the Blue: the origin and revival of pools, swimming baths and lidos”
20 July, 2019 – 19 April, 2020
Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL
United Kingdom


With the restoration and regeneration of historic pools becoming a focus for many communities, this timely display will look at how for centuries architects have designed inventive places for bathing, and what the future holds for this building type.


Splashpoint Leisure Centre, Worthing, West Sussex, designed by WilkinsonEyre, interior view of main pool © Julian Abrams

Design for the Oriental Baths, Cookridge Street, Leeds


Drawing on original material including drawings, photographs, models and film, the display will explore:

– The revival of English spa towns during the 18th and 19th centuries
– The birth of modern indoor swimming pools
– The introduction of open-air pools, with significant examples including the 18th-century Peerless Pool in north London and the 1930s Saltdean Lido in Brighton
– A look at the future of historic pools and lidos


Poster- Southport; by Fortunino Matania (1881-1963); issued by London , Midland Scottish Railway; Italian; c. 1930.

Charing Cross floating swimming baths, Hungerford Bridge, London: interior perspective and plan


News source: Victoria and Albert Museum
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