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Into the Blue: the origin and revival of pools, swimming baths and lidos

18 June 2019

FREE display – V&A + RIBA Architecture Display Gallery, Room 128a, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

20 July 2019 – 19 April 2020

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, photographed by John Maltby. Credit: 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.

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.

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

Notes to editors

  1. For further information contact Emily Stallard RIBA press office. Tel: 020 7307 3813 or email Press images can be downloaded here.
  2. Display venue: V&A + RIBA Architecture Display Gallery, Room 128a, V&A, Cromwell Road, London. Admission to the Architecture Gallery and Study Rooms is free. For public enquiries, tel: 020 7942 2000 or visit the V&A/ webpages. The V&A is open Monday to Sunday 10am – 5.45pm and until 22.00 every Friday.
  3. About the V&A + RIBA Architecture Partnership:
    The V&A + RIBA Architecture Partnership was established in 2004 by RIBA and the Victoria and Albert Museum to promote the understanding and enjoyment of architecture. Together RIBA and the V&A opened the UK's first permanent gallery of architecture. The Architecture Partnership brings together the holdings of the RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections with the V&A's collections of architectural drawings, photographs and artefacts in one location – the V&A in London. It also combines the expertise of each institution to create an exciting programme of displays and talks.
  4. About the RIBA
    The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow us on Twitter for regular RIBA updates.

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