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