20 August 2008
Written with permission from Rita Martelo.
This article was written with permission from Rita Martelo, MA.

As a final project for her Masters Degree in Communication Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London (CSM), Rita Martelo, a Portuguese Graphic Designer, created the SWIM'IN London project. SWIM’IN London, an information design project, gives a complete panorama of all the swimming pools in London. With these informative designs, SWIM’IN London aims to address the lack of knowledge about the available pools in the city, as well as inspire more Londoners to swim.

'Underwater London' - Public swimming pools

Rita's passion for sports, and particularly the triathlon, drove her to survey and map all the pools in London when she first moved there to attend CSM. When creating the designs, Rita was inspired by the bathymetric charts of the oceans. For her, it was a pleasure to combine her love for sports with her love for design. The result was a beautiful selection of organic shapes, representing the density and concentration of a good selection of pools across London.

This first part of SWIM'IN London was developed with the support of the Portuguese Hydrographic Institute and received an international Bronze award from :output, an international platform for colleges and students in design and architecture.

For her final project at CSM, Rita decided to continue mapping swimming pools but to also add much more detail and information. For this she visited and sketched 300 public pools in London. The final product is a series of information design maps giving the exact location and details of each pool: type, size, depth, number of lanes, diving boards, etc., as well as illustrating specific interests such as diving, open air, and teaching.

'Underwater London' - School swimming pools

At the final screening of her work, the British governing body for swimming, the Amateur Swimming Association - London Region (London Swimming), invited Rita to further develop this project. Likewise, the Sign Design Society invited her to give a talk about the project. Rita then visited around 300 more pools, totaling over 560 pools in the 33 London boroughs, and completed a series of three-dimensional and density maps to illustrate her findings.

The three-dimensional pool maps are linked with the underground subway system in order to guide people easily from location to location. The strength of these maps is that they can also be related to other information, such as population density, transportation, local attractions, or the 'A-Z London Guide'.

SWIM'IN London - Information Design maps showing the spedific details and locations of the 560 swimming pools in London

The density maps are now used as an important tool for the development of swimming across the capital. As many of the pools are now forgotten or in need of refurbishment, these maps provide a fresh look at the situation for London Swimming to address specific interests, particularly those of young swimmers and schools, when building new or temporary pools. Furthermore, by increasing awareness of the location of pools where clubs can dive, play water polo in deep water, teach children in shallow water, and more, London Swimming also aims to build and inspire a legacy for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

When thinking about the upcoming Olympics, Rita states:
I believe these maps can be important for London 2012 if this information becomes available to general public. Londoners and foreigners need to know where to swim and these maps are very useful since they give very detailed/accurate information. I feel that London is going to support sports like never before because of the Olympics and swimming is no exception. Having 560 (and growing) pools in one city is something to be proud of and I'm sure London will want to promote this investment in sports.

'Underwater London' - Teaching swimming pools

While Rita completed the project in February of 2008, it will constantly need to be updated. She has proposed the creation of a website to make this information available to the public, as well as a guide book of swimming.

Rita has also begun a small booklet for children for London Swimming, and has created the London Swimming Logo to communicate the aim of the company: Do Swimming! This logo has been entered into the Wolda Competition, the worldwide logo design annual.

Moreover, since the original idea of developing an information design and motivation project, developed during her time at Central Saint Martins, Rita has begun writing and illustrating a story to inspire more people to swim. 'The Monsters of the Pool' is a set of creative rhymes, illustrating the barriers that prevent people from swimming. Characters include The Monster of Chlorine, of the Cold and of the Deep. Rita will present this project in September to the Amateur Swimming Association for possible publication. More information about the book can be seen on Rita's blog.

When speaking of the project in April of 2008, Colin Brown, the London Region Director wrote in Weekly News:
The highlight of this week has been seeing the finish Borough Maps printed. This completes our Mapping of London's pool stock project and sees the departure of Rita Martelo from the team. We now have a definitive map of the 566 swimming pools in London, density maps showing the different types of pools and 33 individual Borough Maps including station and tube stops. Not only will this be useful for swimmers, clubs, local authorities, transport authorities it was also feed into ongoing strategic planning and investment in the pools of London. Thanks go to Rita for her hard work and perseverance and ultimate ingenuity in delivering a first class product. (04/02/2008)

'Underwater London' - Private swimming pools

In the creation and development of this project, Rita is particularly indebted to the Bureau Mijksenaar (NL) for giving her access to their archives, the Hydrographic Institute (PT) for their technical and printing support, Sport England (UK) for providing her the swimming pools database and London Swimming (UK) for financial support printing postcards. Special thanks goes to Paul Mijksenaar, John Wood (Sport England), Commander Bessa Pacheco and Ana Nobre (Portuguese Hydrographic Institute) and Colin Brown (London Swimming).


For more information, please contact:

Rita Martelo