Regent’s Canal, a 180-year-old industrial waterway in London, could one day host waterborne commuters.

The proposal is one of the shortlisted entries from a new competition to design a High Line-inspired urban reclamation project for London.

The designers behind the proposal, [Y/N] Studio, argue that London has plenty of green space already available for public use. Instead, they’d like to bring the city a new transportation network.

The 8.6 mile canal runs east-west across the city.

In winter, [Y/N] imagine the LidoLine freezing over and being used for ice skating. The winner of the competition will be announced on October 8th.

Co.Design

Will London Be The First City With Commuter Swim Lanes?

Two young British architects want to install a clean swimlane in one of London’s abandoned industrial canals.

Love it or hate it, New York City’s High Line has inspired a renaissance in urban design. Dozens of cities across the globe are trying to re-create the so-called High Line Effect—hell, even New York wants another.

This fall, the mayor of London and the city’s Landscape Museum hosted a conference and competition aimed at helping the metropolis develop its own High Line–inspired project. London, like New York, has no shortage of unused industrial artifacts, and the organizers are hoping that the competition will create buzz and public excitement over the idea. The winner of the open competition will be announced on October 8, but the shortlisted proposals are already online.

"Entries have included ideas for gritty flyovers to become trellised with wildflowers, streets to become orchards and buried rivers to be opened," explained the museum’s director in an op-ed on the conference. But [Y/N] Studio, the designers behind one of the shortlisted proposals, believes that the city is looking in the wrong place for regeneration. "London doesn’t need more green space," the architects argue. "38% of the capital is already green or open space."

Instead, [Y/N] Studio proposes creating a new commuter network that would turn the 8.6-mile-long Regent’s_Canal]Regent’s Canal into a swimming lane, allowing Londoners to swim to work. In the winter, the designers imagine ice-skating. Much like +Pool, the LidoLine would contain canal water filtered through a multilayer membrane, removing bacteria and toxins. "The LidoLine would form a new network for London," the designers write. "Rather than blindly multiplying underused, functionless "green space." Corporate sponsors could still hold plenty of events along the canal, thanks to a series of floating docks and an amphitheater.

The canal was built nearly two centuries ago and, like the Erie Canal, was designed to transport industrial goods to factories around the blossoming city. Alex Smith and David Lomax, the founders of [Y/N], explain that they see their idea as returning the canal to its former glory.

"The city’s canals have lost their original purpose," the duo explain. "The LidoLine flips Regent’s Canal back to its original purpose: connecting raw materials (workers) to the place of production (work)." In essence, they’re conflating the creative economy with the Industrial Revolution—where human capital has seemingly replaced shipments of iron ore.

[H/t Design Boom]

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10 Comments

  • Franklin

     That's the easy part: place it in a floatable bag which you tether to your waist and it swims along with you. Consider the fashion accessories which come along with this idea? Endless...!

  • IcyMoustache

    These are the kind of ideas art majors come up with... fancy and impractical... swimming 8 miles in London, I was laughing till my belly ached...
    No wonder these art majors are unemployed and useless to the economy

  • Kevin Baron

    Skating maybe, but even Ottawa, Canada's Rideau Canal Skateway only freezes for a few weeks a year.  In London you'd need to add artificial refigeration, which would make it uneconomical and enviromentally unsensible.

  • Nic Johnson

    It looks like just one lane, so the boats could still use it. Chilly though, I can't see how it could be heated. The highline works because it's egalitarian, anyone can go there, admire the view, see the art, etc. This would be for the hardcore only.

    I think a better idea for the canal might be a fleet of small boats and canoes for hire at low cost, like Boris bikes. An option for commuters, and fun for the weekend.

  • Guest

    This is a great idea for maybe the Caribbean where the temperatures don't drop lower than 75F. Because of the weather in London, I don't think the swimming lanes would be of great advantage.

  • Guest

    Do you know how long it would take to swim 8 miles? And would you walk to/from canal in your swimming costume? This is Britain, not Bermuda.