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Blub! Abandoned Swimming Pool in Neukölln

published on 2014-08-14 by Sara
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Blub! (Berliner Luft- und Badeparadies) used to be the place to be for kids in Neukölln, which eventually had to close down.

Wikipedia explains that there had been problems with youth gangs who marked the pools as their territory, so the visitor count kept declining. Additionally, there’d been hygiene problems with the premises and a plague of rats, stemming from the nearby canal.

Ultimately, the Blub! seemed to have lost its coolness and was shut down in 2005, although, from the way it was left behind, it looks like it was deserted in a very unceremonious way. The sauna facilities had still been open til 2012, and I guess that’s why the Schwimmbad looks as if it was only recently “discovered” by urban explorers.

The Blub! is a very popular spot for all sorts of activities now. Although you can’t swim in the pools anymore, we met skaters (obviously) and cross-golfers. On our way out, we encountered people chilling and drinking in the wintergarten (sauna?) of the Blub, listening to music while sitting under a forgotten palm tree.

Exploring abandoned buildings in 2016

There is no lack of mangy places around the city that have been forgotten and reclaimed by nature (and graffiti writers). They have become the subversive symbol of the city. My inbox is spammed with requests from abroad, asking me: hey, where’s a cool abandoned place that nobody knows about so we can skate/shoot/film/hang out/prepare a rave there? Urban decay has become an aesthetic setting, devoid of any exploration, authenticity and mentality of discovery.

It’s only fair to ask why these characteristics of urban exploration are important to begin with.

Our cities, Berlin especially so, are visibly turning into commercial, functional, segregated spaces of consumerism. I am not criticizing capitalism, but it is an evolution that saddens the heart of any person that identifies with its surroundings, neighborhoods and the history of their birthplace or home. Some people go out of their way to avoid these functional spaces, where they are forced to buy ready-made experiences. Instead, they actively seek the real and forgotten history of their urban environment – of their own identity  and personality – by locating themselves in a city without purpose, and by actively discovering these non-spaces without maps or guides.

That’s what makes urban discovery so interesting and exciting in the first place. But one of the elements that has to stay intact in order to provide this urban sport with meaning is exclusivity. Once people provide maps and detailed guides, they become a point of sale again.

This is why many urban explorers feel as if their ideals are being betrayed. By aestheticizing urban decay, and by offering guided (and paid-for) tours through abandoned buildings, the meaning of urban exploration is moot. Paradoxically, the things that make urban discovery exciting disappear.

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