Canal installations for the Bruges Triennial Festival

Source: Dertien12, photographer Stef Declerck.


Canal Swimmer’s Club:
Atelier Bow-Wow & Dertien12

Floating island: OBBA & Dertien12

Type of Area

Urban canal (surrounded by buildings)

Land/water interaction


Built Environment Types

Completely built

Scale of Impact

District/ neighbourhood

Intervention Scale (Spatial)

Single object

Project Types

Urban design

Urban/ Rural

Urban core

Visibility and Openness

Partly enclosed
Partly horizon

Canal Swimmer’s Club 

This installation was designed and constructed by Japanese Atelier Bow-Bow together with local architects Dertien 12 for Bruges Triennial 2015 at the confluence of the Spinolarei-Potterierei and Sint-Annarei canals in Bruges. The installation consisted of a wooden deck leading to a floating lounge with a sun shelter. Access from the embankment was enabled with a ramp from both ends. The intervention provided numerous opportunities of recreation by the water and in the water, such as relaxation, visiting the events and swimming. The design offered a different perspective of Bruges’ canals. Usually, getting on-the-water experience is possible only from a boat and swimming in the canal is not a usual practice in the centre of Bruges. According to the authors the installation extended the public space, which was usually crowded during the high-tourist season in the city. It also drew attention to the fact that the water quality has been improved in recent years and nowadays the canals are swimmable. This temporary intervention also communicated that the direct connection to the water in Bruges, although is a city permeated by canals and known for it worldwide, is still a missed opportunity.

Source: OBBA, photo Matthias Desmedt. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

Perception and Meaning

Place identity
Sense of ownership

Health and Wellbeing

Place affordance
Increases socialisation

Interaction with Water


Canal swimmers club: Fully in the water

The Floating Island

This temporary intervention was also created for Bruges Triennial in 2018 by the Korean architecture office OBBA together with Dertien12. The wave-formed platform was constructed near the Snaggaardbrug in the historical centre of Bruges. Access from the canal embankment was enabled with stairs and a ramp at each end of the structure. The wooden platform floated just above the water level. A long screen made of cloth ropes in the middle of the platform created a visual border and enhanced the closeness to the water on the one hand, on the other hand providing a playful and creative way to use the installation such as through ropes attached vertically offering hammock-like places; a net stretched over the water providing a resting place and hanging textile balls for swinging. This intervention is an example of providing a playful environment for recreation and interaction with water, where a permanent installation is not possible; it is also creating various affordances and offering the visitors various options of interaction with the space.