The Bains des Pâquis have existed since 1872. Built first of wood, then enlarged in 1889 on stilts, they were reconstructed in cement in 1931-1932. In 1890, the baths became public and municipal. An entrance fee was charged from 7 am to 6 pm on weekdays. The Baths were free of charge on Sundays and holidays. A few free hours were reserved for women in order to avoid promiscuity.
The city of Geneva decided to rebuild the baths in 1932. The simple wooden barracks were destroyed, leaving room for a complete layout of the reinforced concrete pier. The project chosen was that of the engineer Louis Archinard and the architect Henry Roche who offered a perfect surface equality between men and women and an area of 6500 m2. The first of the 448 stakes was planted on January 20, 1932.
The success was immediate; the Genevans appropriated this site and made it their favorite summer place. Combining calm, sports, health and leisure, the Baths are also impregnated with a social and socializing side that has not escaped its users. At the end of the 1980s, a project was planned for the reconstruction of Les Bains. But "reconstruction" was actually demolition. Why such a project while renovation would keep the spirit of the Baths ...?
The Destruction Project
At the beginning of the 1980s, the rumor ran through the streets of the Pâquis ... It spread from one towel to another, around the tables of the refreshment bar and under the plane trees. The City of Geneva wants to transform the Baths of the Pâquis! Users feel betrayed by a project that does not respect the spirit of the Baths. Certainly it is prestigious but does not meet the expectations of bathers. How to convince the City that the Baths must be renovated without being modified?
What makes these baths so rich is their conviviality, the mixture of generations and genres, their sobriety and popularity. A whole set of elements that make one find one's friends from one summer to the next, that one has his habits and that one has the impression of being on vacation as soon as one sits down at a table in the refreshment bar. The City of Geneva underestimated the emotional attachment of the Genevese to the Bains des Pâquis.
The mobilization begins! Users and residents of the neighborhood launch a protest campaign. In February 1987, the defenders of Les Bains formed an association in order to file an appeal against the demolition project: the Association of Users of Baths of the Pâquis was born (AUBP).
Meetings with architects and elected officials follow one another. The AUBP is campaigning to signify that the demolition-reconstruction project does not correspond to the expectations of the users who just want the renovation of the Baths. It is a failure, the city council votes the project in December 1987. The AUBP then decides to launch a referendum so that the Genevans pronounce themselves on the future of the Baths: more than 9000 signatures are quickly harvested and the referendum is filed.
The referendum is set for 25 September 1988. The AUBP must convince the population that the renovation of baths is technically feasible and will cost less than destruction-reconstruction.
Faced with the disastrous conclusions of the City of Geneva which argued that the baths should be destroyed because of the concrete disease, the AUBP makes its own assessment of the 513 pillars and notes that only about ten pillars are affected by carbonation. A counter-expertise reveals that the baths are repairable and a new project by architects favorable to the baths is proposed.
The campaign is financed by shows and parties held at the Bains des Pâquis: artists and musicians perform for free. Graphic designers, filmmakers and designers are also mobilizing to give the votation posters a particularly colorful signature. Journalists, shopkeepers, neighborhood houses, cultural spaces all over the city are mobilized and on September 25, 1988, nearly 17,000 citizens, 72% of the vote, vote NO! to the destruction of the Bains