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Roubaix, France

La Piscine

Museum in a swimming pool where the water still flows. 

What was once built to be the most beautiful swimming pool in France is now a museum for decorative and fine arts. Yet even though statues frozen in smile or attentive pose now line the Olympic size pool, water still flows through it out of the mouth of a fountain of Neptune.

The Musée d’Art et d’Industrie (Museum of Art and Industry), better known as La Piscine (the swimming pool), in Roubaix houses its collections of 19th and 20th century art inside a transformed Art Deco-style swimming pool. The building was completed in 1932 after a design by architect Albert Baert, who had been asked by the then mayor of Roubaix to build the most beautiful swimming pool in France. Roubaix was a huge industrial center of Northern France, especially for textiles, and the ornate pool reflected the thriving city. In addition to the 50-meter pool illuminated by windows symbolizing the rising and setting of the sun, the building was built around a garden and had public baths, showers, and a salon.

In 1985, the pool was closed due to security and maintenance problems, but demolition was never suggested. Instead, in 1990, the Conseil Municipal et la Direction des Musées initiated a project to transform the space into a museum. Architect Jean-Paul Philippon led the renovation and the museum was finally inaugurated in 2001.