"Indoor pools have had their day and there's a bit of a return back to the outdoors," said the architect. "There's definitely a demand for outdoor swimming. People have had it with the smells and the verrucas from indoor pools."
Romer-Lee and colleague James Lowe, who together run London architecture office Studio Octopi, are behind the Thames Baths initiative – a project that aims to rebrand London's waterway as a hub for swimmers through the construction of floating pools.
"People are really intrigued about getting into the water," Romer-Lee said. “It's very similar to going in the sea – it's dangerous if you do stupid things, but if you respect the waterways then you're fine."
The team's current proposal is for a lido on the Victoria Embankment featuring two pools – a 25-metre lap pool and a training pool. Both will be filled with Thames water, filtered to ensure it is always clean enough to swim in.
The long-term goal is to create baths filled with the moving tidal waters of the river. Romer-Lee believes this will be possible once construction has completed on the Thames Tideway Tunnel, the so-called super sewer set to upgrade London's 150-year-old waste system and prevent sewage overflowing into the water.
"The Thames has a very long history of swimming, and actually there were various floating baths on the Thames in the 1870s," said Romer-Lee. "The only reason why our generation has a phobia of the Thames is because we're told by parents and grandparents that the place is poisoned and an open sewer.
"Whereas the reality is that the Thames is actually a lot cleaner than we're led to believe.
Yes it has bad days when the sewers overflow. But in between those days the water is in amazingly good condition. All the brown you see is just the silt from the riverbed."
Studio Octopi unveiled its first Thames Bath proposal in 2013. Romer-Lee came up with the idea after a holiday spent swimming in Lake Zurich. "I thought, if the Swiss are prepared to jump into a green slimy lake, then surely Londoners are prepared to jump into the Thames," he explained.
However, with the super sewer not due to complete until 2023, the architects developed a solution more achievable in the short-term. "We wanted a bath that could be built in two years' time not in 10 years' time," said Romer-Lee.
"I think it's really, really important that it's not another London Eye," he said. "Some of the criticism we've had is that it will be just another highly priced tourist attraction, but that's absolutely what we don't want to do. The long-term success of this actually is more to do with making it a community asset, something with a little bit of heart, and no Coca-Cola branding either."