Design and architecture of swimming pools: flashback to the changes in the 20th century

06 Jun 2019

In the last century, the appearance of private swimming pools transformed the design of homes. Many architects dived into this new element, creating several major ripples! During the Pool Summit in 2018, Domestic Pools exhibition Commissioner Benjamin Lafore led the conference on “Pools: stars of design and architecture” which reviewed this evolution.

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Read also: 3 approaches to pool design seen by professionals

The Pool Summit event, another approach to Pools & Spas

At Piscine Global Europe 2018, the Pool Summit brought together over 60 major international federations and manufacturers, all top swimming pool market decision makers. This important international meeting provided a different, less technical and more prospective vision of the Pools & Spas sector. It was an opportunity for federations, Majors Club members and journalists to take an overview and discover a more sociological approach to swimming pools.

The popularization of domestic swimming pools

Initially reserved for the rich, industrialization made domestic swimming pools affordable by the middle classes. In the United States, the number of swimming pools rose from 800,000 to 4 million between 1960 and 1990!

There was a boom in domestic swimming pools and also in the creation of rituals around this new social space. Domestic swimming pools were highly symbolic and gave rise to many artistic representations (a theme also discussed during the Pool Summit in 2018) and inspired generations of architects!

4 approaches to domestic swimming pool design

The Domestic Pools exhibition, held in the Villa Noailles in 2018, highlighted the main architectural trends which shaped domestic swimming pools from the beginning of the 20th century. 

Water tanks

The architecture of traditional domestic pools initially reflected the new place of sport in daily life, mainly in luxurious buildings. The design of this kind of swimming pool was resolutely pragmatic! Water was only considered from a technical point of view and pools as water tanks. The Villa Noailles has an example of this trend.

“Water rooms”

The architectural approach to swimming pools then evolved to integrate them fully into homes. Considered as rooms, domestic swimming pool architects had to meet new technical challenges. Adolf Loos’ creation for the house of Joséphine Baker is a perfect example.

Ponds

Nature never ceases to inspire mankind! For example, in Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea it gave rise to a new, curved, pool design. This naturalist approach aims to integrate pools into landscapes better while mitigating the absence of a natural stretch of water.

Vases

Like the Neptune Pool, designed in the 1920s by architect Julia Morgan, swimming pools can also be perceived as decorative compositions. The water reflects and magnifies the elements which surround the pool. This approach makes it possible to create pictures in which the swimming pools are the central features.

What will pools look like in the coming century? At the Pool Summit, Benjamin Lafore reminded us that pools are getting smaller and smaller, down from 130cu.m. in 1980 to an estimated 27cu.m. in 2025. The success of plunge (or lap) pools confirms this trend – and new opportunities for architects!

2018 Pool Design Award winners give their views on what makes pools exceptional


© Photo credit: Hearst Castle Neptune Pool / King of hearts / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

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