The recent opening of the Sky Pool at the Embassy Gardens in London marked a new milestone in feats achieved by the collaboration between architects and engineers. The centerpiece of London’s Embassy Gardens development takes aqueous architecture to new heights — quite literally. In honor of the project’s momentous conclusion, we’ve gathered nine more jaw-dropping swimming pool designs that have made a splash in architecture over the years.
Sky Pool at the Embassy Gardens by Arup Associates, HAL Architects in London, U.K.
HAL Architects joined forces with Arup Associates, in consultation with structural engineering firm Eckersley O’Callaghan and aquarium designers Reynolds, to design the world’s first 100-percent-transparent swimming pool that links two residential towers. Confounding the usual function of a bridge, as infrastructures that span to overcome a body of water, this water-filled overpass towers ten stories above ground level, linking the two private buildings. The 90-foot-long structure is constructed from eight-inch-thick acrylic panels, which were engineered and constructed in Grand Junction, CO and then shipped across the pond. The final result has pedestrians gazing up as much as swimmers are looking down.
This small house — spanning just 625 square feet, harmonizes two priorities: a relationship with light and relationship with water. This is achieved by nestling the structure into the side of an embankment, then carving out two distinct external spaces, and punching two biomorphic holes in the ceiling. The first is an entrance porch open to the countryside, the second is an interior patio that hides a private pool from where to watch the sky. The result is a distinct structure in dialogue with the surrounding landscape that also offers a private and intimate place.
Hofsos is a small fishing village in the northern part of Iceland; this contrast of this tiny scale to the country’s expansive landscape served as the inspiration for this swimming pool. Sited on the coast between the ocean an the town’s main drag, the swimming pool is positioned in an axis facing Drangey Island — a memorable location in Icelandic Saga lore where one of the most important characters, Grettir, swam to escape a battle on shore. In this way, the pool doesn’t simply offer impressive views; it invites swimmers to embrace the feeling that they are swimming Grettir’s escape route to Drangey.
Founded on the island of Majorca in 1967, the small Hotel Castell dels Hams was established amid the Mediterranean vegetation and has always embraced growth through improvement and extension. Recently, in a bid to celebrate the Mediterranean light, renovations of the pool area saw the replacement of the existing covering and enclosure, and the addition of an adjacent spa to supplement it. The main pool area is now adorned with a series of square windows overhead, which allow natural light to flood into the area and dance in the pool’s reflections. The new spa area is also filled with natural light and offers tranquil views of the surrounding landscape.
While the architect’s had the option of placing a swimming pool in the open garden of the adjacent plot of land, they instead opted to maximize sun exposure by incorporating a pool onto the roof of this abandoned school building. The daring intervention relied on a system of reinforced concrete columns and beams to support the derelict school building and the pool. The system revels in the textures left behind from the wooden formwork.
This project combined the restructuring and extension of a suburban swimming pool with urban redevelopment goals for the area. To this end, the original building was faced with cement to match the light grey extension; this minerality continues through to the hall floor, where Lucerne quartzite is laid as opus incertum. Meanwhile, the building’s scale and form express a strong urban presence; its large cantilever and forecourt provide a generous amount of public space and a large terrace forms a sort of public beach. Inside, soft lighting, fluid architectural promenades, and curves replace the bold exterior, with children’s pools that create the feeling of being wrapped in a cocoon.
A semi-enclosed pool house anchors this alternate al-fresco living area, drawing on material cues from the existing stone house and landscape walls scattered across the property. The stunning series of 40-foot-long cedar pergola beams are held aloft by a fragmented stonewall. While the interplay of interior/exterior spaces was paramount, water features also play a starring role; the pool, hot tub, and koi pond (all of which have differing thermal, ph, and salinity requirements) are not treated as separate entities, but are arranged to appear as a single body of water, inviting visitors to float their way towards the poolhouse.
Designed and built over just three months, the “Bar-Pool-Gallery” presents itself as a modern hilltop belvedere. The pool unites two very simple buildings with a common open space in between. One the one side, a raw concrete “square tube” cantilevers more than 10m over the site’s slope. Opposite, a “semi-buried” gallery structure opens views from the landscape. Its roof serves as a split-level observatory and swimming pool deck.
Located in the center of a busy district, this pool was designed to enhance a high end condominium in Bangkok by transforming the 8th floor roof of a mandatory parking garage into an exciting communal space for residents. Competing with surrounding tall buildings, the architects met the challenge of breaking out of a boxy urban space. For this reason, they “loosed” the floor plan, breaking the pool deck into a series of smaller terraces integrated with the swimming pool. Avoiding perpendicular lines, a skeletal superstructure adds a three-dimensional twist to the outdoor space.
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