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- Paul McQueen
Locals and visitors alike could soon be cruising along the Seine and taking in the riverside sights in a boat powered by their own workouts. The Paris Navigating Gym – a project led by international design and innovation office Carlo Ratti Associati in conjunction with leading fitness equipment manufacturer Technogym, the non-profit architecture group Terreform ONE, and the urban regeneration institute URBEM – reinforces the French capital’s commitment to sustainability and well-being.
The workout area on the 20-meter-long fitness vessel, which can accommodate up to 45 people, boasts a selection of Technogym’s ARTIS machines, a combination of sophisticated bikes and cross-trainers. When a user starts to turn or push down on the pedals, an inverter converts this exertion into utility-grade electricity, which is then used to power the user’s device. The exercise-generated energy is also sent to the gym boat’s electric propellers in order to move it through the water and across the city, picking up and dropping off people as it goes. Any additional energy requirements would be met with renewables, most likely photovoltaic cells on the roof, and excess energy would be fed into the city’s grid.
The science behind the Paris Navigating Gym │© Carlo Ratti Associati
For Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab and a founding partner of Carlo Ratti Associati, the Paris Navigating Gym ‘provides one with a tangible experience of what lies behind the often abstract notion of “electric power”.’ Indeed, augmented-reality screens on the boat’s windows display to users information about both the energy their workouts are producing and, with the help of real-time tracking devices installed on the vessel, environmental data about the Seine’s water quality.
This floating, human-powered gym is usable year-round. Its transparent glass covering, which can be opened during the summer months, offers panoramic views of the banks of the Seine and the city beyond. At night, the boat could also be used for parties. From a design point of view, the newest addition to the Seine’s fleet references the Bateaux Mouches, the original Parisian sightseeing boats in operation since the early 20th century.
Terreform ONE first advanced the idea of a River Gym for New York in 2008, and the Parisian project is a natural evolution of that. Analysis by URBEM and UR Lab have ensured its feasibility.
Initial studies suggest that the Paris Navigating Gym could be operational in as little as 18 months. Its arrival, coupled with that of the recently proposed flying water taxis, could change the way Parisians interact with their river forever.