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France’s abandoned ‘sunflower’ pools are photographed by Diane Dufraisy

They might look like abandoned UFOs, but France’s Piscine Tournesols were once part of an ambitious architectural project to get the country swimming.

Photographer Diane Dufraisy grew up swimming in one of these spaceship-like pools. Almost 200 of them were built in the late 1970s across France, following architect Bernard Schoeller’s original ‘sunflower’ design which allowed for a retractable roof, which meant they could be opened in warm weather.

Many of them are now closed and rapidly dilapidating, but Dufraisy snuck into one of the swimming pools in Brittany to shoot images of its still impressive interior – including the domed roof, punctuated by skylights.

‘They have the feeling that time as stopped,’ she says. ‘Except the work of some unscrupulous visitors, everything remains intact. I feel like I’m a child again, remembering my first swimming lessons, and there’s a kind of nostalgia.’

Photography: Diane Dufraisy

‘There’s also a heavy silence that testifies to the abandonment of the place. Pools are usually a place of life, with shouts of swimmers and children. Here we just hear the sound of the wind in the broken windows.’

The abandoned pool Dufraisy shot has now been destroyed and many languish. There are others that are still open for swimmers to use, however, and several that have been classified as historical monuments – which means they’re now protected.

‘They have so much space, and there could be plenty of solutions for them,’ says Dufraisy. ‘They could become a place for artistic creation or exhibitions, or a bar or restaurant that opens in the summer.’

Photography: Diane Dufraisy
Photography: Diane Dufraisy

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