Sat unused since 1974, Thames Lido has been restored and refurbished by Marshall & Kendon Architects and WS Swift to bring a new lease of life back to what is believed to be the oldest surviving outdoor municipal pool of the Edwardian era.
Formerly known as King’s Meadow Baths, Thames Lido – owned by Swedish developer Arne Ringner – was built in 1902 as a ‘Ladies Only’ Swimming Pool beside the river Thames in King’s Meadow, Reading. By the time work had started on site in 2014, the building had been unused for 40 years and was in a particularly sorry state.
To bring the site back to life, the team that successfully brought Bristol’s Clifton Lido back from a state of decay were invited to do a similar resurrection. Three years later the small site team had completed a meticulous renovation, inserted a dozen new rooms for a spa, enclosed a new restaurant and added a new west wing containing kitchens and a function room.
From the outset, the aim of the project was to keep as much of the original building as possible. The original structure was an octagonal oblong of mostly blank brick walls giving suitable privacy for Edwardian lady bathers, but by the early 21st century a more open character was wanted.
There are now numerous glimpses into the interior, from the riverside and through the Spa and restaurant entrances. Most of the open poolside space has been enclosed with double height glazing in order to provide suitable space for the Spa and restaurant.
Along the south side of the pool new timber cladding and bay windows have been carefully added at first floor level, in amongst the elaborate columns and trusses. All of the roofs on site were replaced, while the existing elaborate timber detailing was carefully repaired and reinstated, ensuring that the richness of the Edwardian detailing survived the building’s renovation.
On the north side, a new service corridor was added, along the rear, bringing multiple operational benefits to the site and the octagon, which has become a celebrated focal point, forming a new reception space. Traditional changing cubicles are provided poolside and the pool itself sits inside the larger and deeper original. The water level is raised 400 mm above the surrounds giving a more enjoyable relationship between swimmers and diners and making the pool accessible for the less able.
Bringing life to the Lido
The double height glazing and the new west wing is deliberately differentiated from the old, but in the Spa, whose rooms are intimately entwined with the historic fabric, the palette of robust timber frames and boarded panelling is applied to the new as well as the repaired. Each spa room has an oriel window, providing pool and sky views, which are picked out in brilliant contrasting colours.
The care and craftsmanship in the restoration is also applied to the new work and extension, from large steelwork assemblies for the glazing, in situ fair-faced concrete and new brickwork blending reused and new Imperial sized brick, to the new timber stairs and the timber-lined Function Room. The rich detail of the original is echoed, though not copied.
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