In contrast to classic forms of reuse, as exemplified by the conversions of the Comb Building or the Grand Hall within the Zollverein coking plant, Werksschwimmbad incorporates highly symbolic and visual values. The initiators of the art project, Florian Waldvogel and Marius Babias, intended to influence the transformation of the Ruhr region through contemporary art, criticism, and communication. Thus, although Werksschwimmbad was conceived as an art installation, it is not an exhibition object in the classic sense, but rather the creation of a social space in which ownership belongs to the people who use it.
During the six weeks that the installation is operated as a public swimming pool each year, it is open daily (weather conditions permitting) between 12 noon and 8 pm, and is attended by swimming supervisors. Die kokerei café and restaurant is located directly adjacent to the pool. Since the water is quite cold, the pool mainly attracts young people from the vicinity. The pool measures 2.4 × 12 × 5 metres, and is constructed from two 40-foot steel shipping containers that were cut and re-welded. It is surrounded by an elevated wooden platform with a total area of 170 square metres, which is accessed via a staircase. The platform is surfaced with wooden decking planks, which are laid with open joints and have a ribbed surface to prevent slipping, and a safety railing runs around the outside of the platform and stairs. Apart from one changing cabin, two temporary showers, and six lockers, no further features are provided.
The bright-blue pool, framed by impressive industrial architecture, also symbolises the structural change and a new attitude toward life in the Ruhr region. Bird's-eye aerial photographs of the Werksschwimmbad are among the most requested images from the Zollverein Foundation's photo database. One such image placed second in the tourism category of the 2016 PR-Bild Award, a competition to which companies, organisations, and PR agencies from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland submit their best images.
As a further level of reinterpretation, the term Werksschwimmbad is of interest: There is a long tradition, among Ruhr region employers, of providing leisure facilities such as soccer clubs or swimming pools. When Zollverein was operational, there was a swimming pool at Shaft Site 4/5/11 for the use of mining trainees and workers' families.
Outside the pool’s stated opening hours, unsupervised access is prevented via a gate on the stairway. Nevertheless, the iconic image is used in various media throughout the year, particularly at the beginning of the summer holidays.