Poplar Baths to be reopened during Olympics for first time in two decades

Historic public baths considered one of the East End’s most important architectural relics will be reopened during the Olympics as part of an arts project.

In July, Poplar Baths in East India Dock Road will welcome the general public for the first time since its closed its doors in 1988 to mark the Cultural Olympiad in Tower Hamlets.

Arts company Frieze, running the project for Games organisers, is hoping the renewed interest in the building will prop up the campaign to bring it back into use.

The leisure centre was first opened in 1852 and extended in 1931 to include the stunning internal arched roof which has become its landmark.

But it fell into disrepair and despite heated public opposition was closed.

The new opening is expected to last from six weeks to two months.

Giant inflatable sculptures created by artists Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne, will fill the empty swimming pool and visitors will also be given the chance to tour the art deco interiors.

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Frieze Foundation curator Sarah McCrory, who is overlooking four projects across the six host boroughs, said: “It is such an amazing building and there are adults living in Tower Hamlets who have never seen inside it.

“Not everyone’s particularly interested in seeing events so what’s important for people that live around the Olympic area is seeing change for the better and their boroughs treated with respect.”

Tower Hamlets Council voted in 2010 for study into how to bring the baths back into use.

It said it has carried out marketing to assess whether it could find a suitable private partner to back any scheme.

A spokeswoman added: “A great deal of work has been undertaken by a full design team to assess the current building condition.

“The council is undertaking a public procurement exercise to appoint a partner for the refurbishment. It is anticipated that a proposed partner will be appointed in the autumn of 2012.”