borden park swimming pool

This is what Canada's first chemical free outdoor pool looks like

A Toronto architecture firm has eliminated the necessary evil nearly every pool has: the eye-burning, sterile-smelling chemical cocktail need to make it sanitary.

gh3* is the firm responsible for the Borden Park Natural Swimming Pool in Edmonton. It's a chemical-free public pool, the first of its kind in Canada. 

borden park swimming pool

"I think the idea came from someone in the community group," said Pat Hanson, the principal at gh3. Hanson said she worked with German engineers understand the filtration system, which uses gravel, plants, and Zooplankton to keep the water clean. 

There is an 8600 square foot main pool, which can hold 400 people at a time, and a 1600 square foot toddler pool. 

The natural filters are captivating in their own right.

borden park swimming poolgh3* began working on the pool in 2014, and it opened in August of 2018.

"There was a lengthy approval process because Alberta Health... had to be convinced," Hanson said. While chlorine-free pools are fairly common in northern Europe, this was a new proposition for the province's regulators.

In a short summer city like Edmonton, Hanson said the pool really started to get use this past summer, and that it's been a hit.

"There were queues around the building, people were waiting well over an hour to get into the pool," she said. 

Hanson says her pool looks and feels different from the average chlorine pool, and she's taken a dip herself. She says the water is smoother, heavier, and the colour is different as well.

"It's not that kind of acidic cyan blue of sterilized water, it's got a greenish [look]," she said, adding that the water won't burn your eyes.  

borden park swimming pool

Just like any other pool, it's important to shower before jumping in. Hanson explained that sunscreen and other oils can "interfere with the "biology of the water." 

Lead photo by


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