Amicale Solvay, Charelroi, Belgium, November 2019

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People's Republic of South Yorkshire.
1. The History
The modernist leisure centre of Amicale Solvay is located in Couillet, in Belgian city of Charleroi and was built to celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary. It takes its name from Ernest Solvay (1838-1922) and his brother Alfred who chose Couillet as the location to set up their chemicals factory in 1865, due to the presence of raw materials and the proximity of soda consumers, metallurgy and glassmaking. Construction was started in 1937 and completed in the final quarter of 1938 to celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary, for use by their workers. Designed by architect Eléazar Cozac (1893-1977), it was built to house a swimming pool, a 700-seater theatre, a casino, a restaurant and provide other multi-purpose spaces. It is one of a pair of identical buildings that were built, the other being at Jemeppe-sur-Sambre.

The original architect’s plans:

49177581206_01be873985_b.jpg PISCINE AMICALE SOLVAY plans by HughieDW, on Flickr

A photo from in its heyday:

49147444151_755a892d71_c.jpg 20191130_171937 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And the pool itself:

49147465061_67653dbc5d_b.jpg 20191130_174014 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The building remained in the ownership of the company until 1994, when it was sold to Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). With the pool getting old and the maintenance and repairs too expensive, the pool was closed in 1998. In 2000, the building was classified as “Walloon Heritage” on the basis of its facades, roof, entrance rotunda and being a typical example of a 1930s indoor pool. In 2004 the building was closed by ULB and sold on to a non-profit organisation, the European Islamic Center for Culture and Dialogue (CIECD). Their intention to make it into a mosque/Islamic training centre. Despite starting internal work, the project never came to realisation because of financial problems with the association. Since then, the building has remained empty and abandoned and in an advanced state of degradation. A very recent development was its sale this year (2019) to CACC sprl. The current owners have ambitious plans for the building. The first is to seal the building, the second to renovate the exterior and then finally renovate the interior, with a view to returning it back to its original use as a swimming pool. However, currently none of these plans seem to have been rolled out and the plans of returning it back to a swimming pool will depend on securing funding from various public institutions.

2. The Explore
So, the day returning from Ghent back to Charleroi didn’t quite turn out as well as the way up three day’s earlier. The weather was beautiful but left Ghent late after having to take my bestie to hospital to get checked out. Once on the road my first two stops turned out to be fails. The first one I couldn’t find a way in (an old lingerie factory of all places) and the second, a former factory complex, had full-scale renovation going on. Running out of time (and light) I headed to the big sites of Charleroi. With live secca buzzing around and not enough time to do the sites justice I decided to head off to a smaller site on the other side of town. I got to Amicale Solvay as the sun was setting. Fortunately, it was an easy in and I started snapping away. It’s a really beautiful building. I bumped into four female Belgium explorers who seemed surprised I’d found the way here for England to explore this place. Inexplicably I didn’t get down to the basement to photograph the pool. Perhaps the toll of the previous four days had taken their toll. Despite that, at least I didn’t finish my final day drawing a blank.

3. The Pictures

Some façade:

49147492692_cfda597bd0_b.jpg Charleroi Pool 01 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147171526_45f9be9465_b.jpg img4481 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147492337_0c3dace649_b.jpg Charleroi Pool 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147197896_cd28d05ca4_b.jpg img4450 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147285436_062dd97ed2_b.jpg Charleroi Pool 08 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147395042_06ab8eb364_b.jpg img4459 by HughieDW, on Flickr

A quick look at the function hall:

49146678488_8c0f27c87c_b.jpg img4477 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49146677428_9ea9922009_b.jpg img4479 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49146678488_8c0f27c87c_b.jpg img4477 by HughieDW, on Flickr

But this is the main attraction and what we came for:

49147399127_4f86bb34c8_b.jpg img4455 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147196871_9a29c5d352_b.jpg img4451 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147400282_03bb63d49e_b.jpg img4452 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147194461_9ff7de0083_b.jpg img4457 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147190256_0481fb3e3d_b.jpg img4460 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147391757_a59dde3432_b.jpg img4466 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147386927_3065973715_b.jpg img4468 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147383292_a709c81191_b.jpg img4470 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49147491532_50e3fc4bb5_b.jpg Charleroi Pool 05 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49146791753_1201c49928_b.jpg Charleroi Pool 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49146791343_6fac13a815_b.jpg Charleroi Pool 07 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And just for completeness, a couple of pictures of the pool that I inexcusably overlooked from another photographer; both © Alan Cuypers.

36956500292_b2df64124c_b.jpg L'Amicale Solvay-57 by Alan Cuypers, on Flickr

37127469005_f87bc937c2_b.jpg L'Amicale Solvay-56 by Alan Cuypers, on Flickr


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Thats really cool, well captured (apart from the 4th pic which plays havoc with my ocd lol).
Still cant believe how much u packed in!

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