Tuesday, August 10, 2010


A group of architects and designers have put together a plan to set up a series of floating swimming pools in the rivers around Manhattan. Each of these “plus pools” is envisioned as a cruciform body of water the size of two Olympic swimming pools that would float a hundred feet or so off shore at locations like Battery Park City, the Chelsea Piers, and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Architect's rendering of a +Pool in the East River

Rendering of a +Pool floating in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Connected to these urban parks by meandering, floating walkways and surrounded on all sides by a wide deck well stocked with lounge chairs, these pools would offer New Yorkers a unique respite with panoramic views of the city’s skyline and bridges. Moreover, the location of the pools in the vast space of New York’s waterways not only affords city residents an unusual opportunity to swim in the city’s urban rivers without risking their health but also allows visitors to immerse themselves in a kind of wide-open space that is exceptionally rare in New York’s concrete jungle. And, in addition to lending itself to catchy marketing strategies, the iconic shape of the +Pool is designed to create distinct spaces that cater to the different groups of people who might use the pool – one section for sports and games, one for swimming laps, one for little kids, and another section just for lounging – all of which are joined at the center of the pool to enable reconfigurations for alternate types of recreation.

A +Pool swimmer on the East River

The flexible spatial configuration of the +Pool

Another more symbolic significance of the pools’ “plus” shape is described on the project’s website: “An offshore reflection of the city intersection, +Pool both exemplifies the dense, busy character of New York City and offers an island retreat from it.”

Urban street intersection as the inspiration for the +Pool's cruciform shape

Anticipating that the plus pools would likely strike some New Yorkers as a crazy, perhaps impossible endeavor, the project’s organizers have been careful to cite the substantial historical precedence for this kind of floating recreation facility. On the +Pool website, they describe the floating spas that once crowded Manhattan’s shores beginning in the early 1800s when the city’s elite started to use lower Manhattan as a resort. In later decades of the same century, newly arrived immigrants used Manhattan’s riverside bathhouses as their regular bathing facilities. The project’s coordinators also make mention of a similar floating pool that was built in 2007, though on a much smaller scale, from an old barge in the Bronx, a project that they credit as having “brought back the first semblance of New York’s floating pool culture in almost a century.”

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