Zwembad Ouwen Dok

Built: 1915

Abandoned: 1999

Visited: 2008

Mechelen, Belgium

This old swimming pool was designed by the architect August van Haesendonck in a Neo-Renaissance style. Behind the white paint is a facade in sand and brick. Although there were plans in 1897, the city of Mechelen didn’t gave permission for construction until the First World War. With this, Mechelen wanted to prevent its inhabitants from leaving the city to work in German war factories.


The many workers built a luxury building with fine detail. ‘Ouwen dok’ was ready in 1924 and opened to the public on July 6 of the same year. For a few cents every local was welcome. At the back of the old swimming pool there were two entrances: one for the men and one for the women. Above each entrance, people were reminded of the importance of cleanliness: “Order, purity and politeness are a crown for all ages” and “By cleanliness, rich and poor can adorn the same beauty”.

The actual pool area was fully tiled in white and blue and had. On a big round staircase stands the bronze statue of savior by Willem Geets. The savior was Petrus Leopold Janssens, a coal farmer who received 21 decorations for the rescue of 44 drowners from the river Dyle.

Around the swimming area there were also a row of decorative tiles and a built-in sponger with the text Crachoir or Spuwbak. Urban explorers named the pool after this sign and called it Piscine Crachoir. Originally, the roof construction consisted of glass, placed in a metal art nouveau frame. Weather influence forced the city of Mechelen to replace the glass roof with a blue painted ceiling in the 1950s. The changing rooms, which were located around the swimming area, were also placed outside the swimming hall.


In 2001, the old swimming pool ‘Ouwen dok’ was finally closed to the public.

Photos Zwembad Ouwen Dok

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