Case study: Bon Accord Baths

What is the history of the building, monument or area?

Bon Accord Baths is a remarkable, listed, Art Deco swimming pool located in the centre of Aberdeen. It was opened in 1940 and closed by the council in 2008.

How did the project begin and what community need(s) was it seeking to address?

The project began with the campaign to prevent the site being sold by the council for redevelopment in 2014. It was clear that the community loved the pool and wanted it to reopen. The challenge was to work out how this could be achieved.

How did you source funding and support for the project?

The project is still in the development phase. Funding for feasibility work was secured from the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Lottery. The public has also been incredibly generous, with over £20,000 raised through crowdfunding and merchandise sales. Local companies have also donated services to help with the clean up and make the building safe for open days.

In terms of organisational structure, setting up the SCIO was the easy part; we then had to work out how to make it work and received support from Scottish Civic Trust that was very helpful in this regard.

How did the project progress from inception to delivery? What obstacles did you overcome and what were the major milestones?

The major milestone so far was getting a License to Occupy from the Council in 2020. This allowed us to provide security, clean the interior, remove graffiti and hold open days for the public.

Another milestone came in March 2022, when the Aberdeen Jazz Festival held well-attended performances in the empty pool.

How did you involve the community in your project?

We’ve engaged with the public through social media and the local press, and have hosted open days to invite people into the building. During the open days, we asked visitors to write down their memories of using the pool and intend to develop this into an oral history of the Baths. Opportunities for volunteering have been limited because of Covid, so it has mainly been the trustees and their friends and families.

What has been the impact of the project on the community? 

At this point in the project, we would say that our intended impacts are:

  • An increase in wellbeing and socialisation
  • An increase in tourism and spending in the local economy
  • A beautification of the local area
  • A decrease in the area’s carbon footprint
  • An increase in other local regeneration efforts
What’s next for your project? 

We are just completing feasibility studies and will now move on to business planning and architectural work, once we get the funding. We also wish to expand the “mean-while” uses of the building, as far as its condition allows, and to get more volunteers involved.

To learn more about Bon Accord Baths, check out their website and follow them on Facebook.