Month: September 2014

Roubaix, La Piscine

Like a gem, hidden in a corner of a city, a forgotten corner in a forgotten city, somewhere, a far corner at a border of our collective memory.

Like a gem, after long years of dark solitude, unearthed by accident, happened upon by chance, by a man with a grand plan in search of making a grand statement.

We all live on a map full of crosses. With every cross a treasure. Crosses in invisible ink. But one knows the trick with the match and the lemon juice, one has seen it so many times before.

It can happen sometimes, yes, it does occur; when one takes a wrong exit, or one rummages about, in a pocket or a bag, searching for a lighter or a smoke. It can occur to, instead, find a gem, a ruby no less, as big as a dream.

Who dreams up these things? I wonder who creates the concept, who pushes the idea, to install marble statues, to hang canvasses, to place ceramic artifacts in and all around … I shit you not…a swimming pool!

But here we stand. Well aware by now that there still are gems to be found on these fertile grounds. Did we not uncover architectural beauty in the middle of Lille? Did we not find a worthy subsidiary of the Louvre in a dump called Lens and do we now not stand, mesmerized, in front of a splendid art deco swimming pool in the middle of godforsaken Roubaix, (NOT the French word for Ruby.)

Grown men wearing diapers, that’s what the wall high picture at the entrance shows. That’s what swimpies looked like in those days. No women in the picture, how quaint.

The only way to enter the communal swimming pool is, should it surprise? – through the shower cabins! While stepping in we find ourselves into a brightly illuminated room and we cringe our eyes at the two huge semi circle stained glass windows on either side. Like a hallucination, their water reflection mirrors them back into perfect glimmering full wheels of light. What harmony, what symmetry, what warming charming atmosphere breaths this place as one admires the imposing statues, separated in camps, facing each other, as in a stand off,  from opposite sides of the pool. Chiseled and crafted by hands that toiled away in very different places and ages, here they are, as if it had to be, as if their final destiny had always been, to find rest and eternity in the cool calm beside the pool. (Running and diving are not permitted)

Roubaix, la piscine, is one of these rare and gentile places, where one wants to find a corner and just sit and listen to how the glazed tiles speak to the ceramic vases. Hear how their conversations echo voices from times gone by. Hear them bounce off the gleaming walls and make ripples over the waiting water front.

I thank you, genius masterminds, who transformed a swimming pool into a museum. You have created a micro cosmos  and let it gravitate around the unsuspecting visitor. Once, here, in Roubaix, there was just a pool, where men dressed in swimsuits that looked like pampers and women were nowhere to be found.   065