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S AM, Basel, Schweiz, Ausstellung, Swim City

The city passes by: Swim City exhibition in Basel

This year, the bathing summer begins at the museum. While the Rhine, at 13 degrees, is not yet inviting most people to swim, visitors to the S AM can nonetheless dive in already. By going through the curtain of a bathing hut, they enter a room filled with gravel. The crunching underfoot combines with the sounds of a wall-sized video installation. Three screens show a film by director Jürg Egli, who uses a camera raft in order to allow us to experience river swimming from the perspective of a swimmer. At the centre, the view is always aimed at the direction of the current, while the city passes by to the left and right.

The reason the architecture museum is devoting an entire exhibition to a leisure activity is rooted in the urban drive for densification. Research from the preceding exhibition, called Dichtelust [Eng. desire for density] showed that cities, as they become increasingly densely populated, can function only when more public space is created at the same time. And rivers can become public spaces when they become usable.

The exhibition approaches the topic in three parts. The video installation described above offers an introduction for those who have never swum in a river. Moreover, it allows viewers to concentrate on the differences in the four Swiss cities where the shots were taken. From urban bustle to the twittering of birds surrounded by trees, a swimmer can encounter anything in Basel, Berne, Geneva or Zurich. The second part of the exhibition portrays these four cities with their various processes of development. For instance, a chemical disaster that took place in Basel in 1986 became the catalyst for political intervention. The riverbank was fitted with steps and aids to help swimmers get out. The water was cleaned; now, residents can no longer imagine life without their river.

Finally, the S AM shows examples of European and North American cities that are also attempting to make their rivers available to local residents. A few are still at the preliminary stage with bathers who swim in the rivers because the water quality does not yet allow more. In others, bodies of water become an extension of urban space. All six projects refer to the Swiss models.
An accompanying publication takes a deeper look at the significance of river swimming. Furthermore, it features photographs taken by Lucía de Mosteyrín in Basel, Berne, Geneva and Zurich. Looking at the photos will immediately make readers want to pack the book into their swimming bags and join all their fellow citizens in jumping into the water.

Further information:

Director S AM, Co-Curator: Andreas Ruby
Co-Curators: Barbara Buser, Yuma Shinohara
Film: Jürg Egli
Photografie: Lucía de Mosteyrín

A detailed print documentation is available in our issue DETAIL 7+8/2019 concerning the topic "Architecture and Water".
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Further articles to the issue DETAIL 7+8/2019 are available here.

DETAIL 7+8/2019
This article is taken out of the following magazine:
DETAIL 7+8/2019
DETAIL 7+8/2019

Architecture and Water

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