Dong-Ping Wong

Intro­duc­tion to + Pool, from the “+ Pool Project Sum­ma­ry”:


+ 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.


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.


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.


As of Sep­tem­ber 25th, 2011, + Pool has raised a research fund of more than $40,000 from over 1200 back­ers on Kick​starter​.com. The lead­ing engi­neer­ing firm Arup is now a con­sul­tant to the project.


Dong-Ping Wong on the pool and the process:

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 plus​pool​.org