Photo: Luc Legay under a Creative Commons license.
In the late 1920s, looking to promote public hygiene, Jean-Baptiste Lebas, the mayor of Roubaix, a small town in northern France, ordered the construction of a public swimming pool. The result, opened in 1932, the work of architect Albert Baert, was a stunning example of Art Deco architecture. With a 50 meter pool, baths, a hair and nail salon, steam rooms and a rose garden modeled on a Cistercian Abbey, the complex was a hit. It remained in service until 1985, when it was closed for safety reasons. In the next few years, the people of Roubaix, reluctant to destroy the iconic building, looked for a new use. And they found one: it is now a museum.
Photo: Olivier Duquesne under a Creative Commons license.
In 2001, the Museum of Art and Industry of the City of Roubaix, more commonly called La Piscine (the pool) opened its doors to the public (hat tip: Kuriositas). The city had been looking for a site for a new museum throughout the 1980s, and in 1990 the municipal council approved the idea of converting the old pool into the museum.
La Piscine's collections include paintings, photographs, sculptures, and textiles from the 19th and 20th centuries. But likely more spectacular than any work of art you'll find in the museum is the building itself, with its main room lit by sunlight through enormous windows in the shape of a rising or setting sun. It's a fantastic example of the power and importance of architectural preservation, not just for cultural reasons but for environmental ones: remember that the greenest brick is the one that's already in the wall.
And it's a great tribute to Mayor Lebas, who joined the French Resistance in 1940 and died in a concentration camp in 1943. He asked architect Baert to build him the most beautiful pool in France, and he ended up with possibly the country's most beautiful museum.
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