EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH A POOL
+ Pool is the collaborative initiative of design studios Family and PlayLab to build a floating pool for everyone in the rivers of New York City. The project seeks to improve the use of the city’s natural resources by providing a clean and safe way for the public to swim in New York’s waters.
As both a public amenity and an ecological prototype, + Pool is a small but exciting precedent for environmental urbanism in the 21st Century.
WATER + POOL
The most important aspect of + Pool’s design is that it filters river water through the pool’s walls — like a giant strainer dropped into the river.
The concentric layers of filtration materials that make up the sides of the pool are designed to remove bacteria, contaminants and odors, leaving only safe and swimmable water that meets city, state and federal standards of quality.
HISTORY + POOL
Floating pools have paralleled the development of New York City dating back to the early 19th Century. When the city’s elite used lower Manhattan as a resort in the 1800’s, floating spas were located just off the Battery. After the Civil War. the huge influx of immigrants required bathhouses in the Hudson and East Rivers as many were without proper bathing facilities in their homes. In the early 1900’s improved plumbing infrastructure and increasing water quality concerns closed the last of the river-borne pools, relocating aquatic leisure activities to more sanitized and inland sites.
In 1972, the Clean Water Act set forth the goal of making every body of water in the country safe for recreation, and in 2007 the Floating Pool Lady — a reclaimed barge now located in the Bronx — brought back the first semblance of New York’s floating pool culture in almost a century.
Today, as the appreciation for our city’s natural resources becomes increasingly crucial, a permanent floating pool in the river will help restore the water culture so integral to New York City.
Why the shape? Why that particular location?
We wanted Plus Pool to be for everyone, so it’s four pools in one. Granted, you could subdivide a regular pool into four quadrants, but then it wouldn’t look as good, would it?
We don’t have a particular location per se. Since the pool is more a new typology, or even product, than a site-specific building, it more or less can go anywhere.
How will you clean the filters? Is Plus Pool feasible even if there are sewage spills, like the recent spill from the North River Treatment Plant?
Some of the filters we are looking at are self-cleaning. Others will require backwashing and of course the occasional maintenance, like any pool filter. Sewage spills and rainy weather contaminant spikes are what we are designing for. Whether people will want to get into river water after a spill, even if it’s clean, is another story.
Now that you’ve started the campaign, what have you learned most about the process, about people, about yourself?
That this project is surprisingly self-propelled. And that we know very little. And that inexperience isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And that a lot of New Yorkers are jaded experts on the outside and stoked kids on the inside.
What else would you like to see in NYC in ten years?
A proper goddamn burrito.
What would you like to see in City Atlas?
A burrito map. Anything regarding food really.
Do you think people can change their lives to include less of the old ways (high energy and carbon) and more new ways, and be happy?
No duh. One of the problems is that ‘sustainability,’ or ‘green,’ or ‘conservation,’ has all been understood as reducing a bad thing. Which is all good, but reducing how you live is never all that appealing. The other way to look at it is producing good things, which seems a lot more fun and wide open.
How did you decide to go the Kickstarter route?
Playlab used Kickstarter for a small sculptural project they did a while back. And we met with Kickstarter and they seemed rad and into the project. Honestly, we didn’t know of many other options so we figured we might as well try Kickstarter.
What are some precedents that inspired your course of action?
Not sure. The High Line is somewhat similar. But otherwise we haven’t found any models that shed light on what to do next. It’s mostly: “Huh, that seems like it’d be good. Let’s try it.”
Top photo illustration courtesy of pluspool.org
This is part one of a two part interview.