Anyone who knows me would wonder why I am writing about swimming pools. You see, I don’t know how to swim, and am predispositioned to falling into pools — I have been thrown into some; I even fell into a Koi pond at a renowned Dubai hotel (I will not tell you which one). Needless to say, I am terrified of water.
So why would I care about pools? Because it’s design, darling. And one particularly stupid proposal has sprung me in defence of these water beauties.
UK-based pool designers Compass Pools recently revealed a concept for a 360-degree infinity pool that they imagine atop a 220-metre-high, 55-storey skyscraper in London. According to their team, the pool would be surrounded by clear walls made from acrylic, its transparent bottom would act like a skylight and users will enter the pool via a custom-designed hatch based on the door of a submarine, coupled with a rotating spiral staircase which rises from the pool floor. Very James Bond-esque. Needless to say, the design has been slated — not only for the lack of creative and technical thought behind it, but also for its audacity and impracticality. Me, I would like to know why someone would invest in this scheme given London’s usually grey skies.
But it did get me thinking about pools. I love the audacious and the impractical; when done right even the smallest dose is potent. Swimming pools are such design elements; so in solidarity with pools done right, here are some of my favourite designs from around the world, that will resonate with our Sun drenched region.
This is a case of ‘Site is the Hero’. Dug into a sloping site, this South African home designed by Capetonian firm SAOTA frames dramatic views of the Table Mountain. The architects glass encased, terraced proposal was intended to maximise the property’s visual connection with its setting and the crown jewel of this restrained setting is the infinity pool. Its implementation is a fine example of considered design blurring the lines between the indoors and outside, between the private and the not-so-private. Between the built-form which is essentially a series of stacked volumes and the lush green hillside, the edgeless pool serves both as a comma and a hyphen punctuating the serenity of the home and the wild, wild world at its doorstep. I can imagine this on an arid site, with views of the golden desert or even a cut into cliff in the Arabia desert.
Bengaluru-based architectural firm Ochre has designed an urban oasis in the heart of the Indian IT Capital. A mosaic-lined pool is at the heart of this contemporary home, connecting the public and private areas with a stunning visual element capped with a double-height atrium. Lending an outdoor feel to this water courtyard are a series of landscape interventions — gravel and stepping stone walkways, landscaped patches etc — a play of light and shade, courtesy the slatted atrium lends a sense of drama. Thanks to the atrium, spaces on the higher level feature external and internal balconies, connecting the leafy plot with its private oasis. Imagine a pool that is indoors, but still bathed in sunlight and cooled by AC; perfect for Middle East living.
For a getaway located in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City based architects Pérez Palacios and Alfonso de la Concha Rojas wanted to create a scheme that worked inward. Their solution — a system of three void spaces allowed the designers to create three distinct visual elements — all with their own character and use, delivering private outdoor spaces to a site with no distinct nearby views or landscape. In introducing these courts, the designers succeed in creating micro-climates, contrast and different perceptions of scale. One of the courts features a narrow swimming pool, abutted against the wall. What seems like a simple gesture, becomes an extraordinary statement festooned with a tree and a hammock for those lazy afternoons. This skinny pool would be idea for residential sites tight on space.
From the seventh floor of Honolulu’s latest skyscraper marvel, a pool with a transparent bottom jutts out of the main structure. Designed by Chicago-based studio Solomon Cordwell Buenz, the Anaha complex is one of the latest in a spate of projects from around the world that challenge the Braveheart swimmer to look down. From the design perspective, this rectangular block of contained water brilliantly disrupts the wavy green-blue glass cladding of the structure, and is just as beautiful to look up to as is could be terrifying for users to look down from, from its 75 feet height perch. Either way, I can’t wait for the Middle East to introduce its own version of a cantilevered pool soon. In fact, I’m quite surprised it hasn’t already.