Blackrock is a coastal town in Co.Dublin, and got its name after the local rock formations, which is a type of limestone that appears black when wet. For more than a century, the locals enjoyed the original sea-side baths until their closure in 1987. This wonderful amenity used to host swimming and diving events - with up to 3000 visitors per day during peak summer weather. Much to the local's disappointment, the recession in the 80s led to its closure and eventual dilapidation and demolition.
Our intent is for a new baths design that is in symbiosis with the ocean. Looking at what went wrong with the old Blackrock baths, the main thing is that the structure was at war with the sea - it used a sluice gate to fill and drain the baths, which got easily damaged and was expensive to repair, which was the main reason for the bath's closure. Our baths design was inspired by the naturally formed Pollock holes in Kilkee, Co.Clare. The 320 million old rock formation has a beautiful relationship with the sea, which benefits the locals and anyone else who wants to take a swim in the natural, calm baths that are created when the tide fills the holes. The Pollock holes are made of black sandstone, which acts as thermal mass and heats up the water that filled the holes. With our cold Irish waters, even 1 or 2 degrees warmer makes a huge difference. It’s amazing that during the summer month water in these holes can reach 20 degrees Celsius because of the thermal effect of that dark sandstone. The warmer, East sea waters would reach an even higher temperature.
We are proposing a new Blackrock Baths, and in a way, put a Black rock in Blackrock. We have designed a man made rock formation that sits about 200 metres out on the sandy cove of Blackrock beach and is filled by the incoming tide. When the tide goes out, the baths are filled and available for swimming for about 5 hours each day, just like the Pollock Holes. The design is somewhat aerodynamic and multi levelled, with baths of various depths and sizes. There is a possibility that in 1000 years it will not be very evident that the structure is man-made. This man-made black rock would be made of marine grade concrete with a natural black pigment. The black colour with help amplify concrete’s natural thermal properties and heat up the pools to more than 20 degrees Celsius on warm summer days. There is also potential to include turbines at the bas of the baths, or even further out into the sea that would use tidal energy to heat up the baths even more.
We believe that architecture should have a real social commitment and has the power of greatly improving the dynamic of a city or a town. We want to work to cherish and restore cultural history, and Blackrock baths is without a doubt worthy of that. As well as that - sea side projects like this are a huge incentive in keeping the Dublin bay clean and free from pollutants.
The original site of the baths (adjacent to the DART station) is owned by a big developing company with plans for commercial construction. That is why we did not propose a "refurbishment", rather a proposal on a new site, that is publicly owned.