This Floating Pool for the East River Is Closer to Reality Than You Think

A motivated group of young architects is working toward constructing a massive floating pool for the New York City public.
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What does it take to build a floating pool in New York City’s East River? A sublime vision, a lot of Kickstarter money, support from a host of non-profit organizations, and Google data. But leave it to the four architects behind +POOL—Dong-Ping Wong and Oana Stanescu of Family New York with Archie Lee Coates and Jeffrey Franklin of PlayLab Design Office—who have managed all that since first announcing their public pool project in 2010. The quartet recently wrapped up their Hudson River Float Lab, which tested their filtration system in real river conditions by collecting data every 15 minutes for six months. Coates says that "dream team" project partners like Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the construction giant Arup has made the idea a viable one: "The project has not only gotten genuine support, but its gotten stronger. Our golden rule is just to be open to everybody’s advice." 

+Pool, a floating pool of the future that will float in New York City's waterways while filtering toxins from the water table, was designed by Dong-Ping Wong and Oana Stanescu of Family New York with Archie Lee Coates and Jeffrey Franklin of PlayLab.

The 9,000-square-foot pool is oriented as four lap-length pools joined as a cross (rather, a plus sign). The team behind +Pool aims to make it the largest crowdsourcing civic architecture project of all time: architecture meant for "you, for your friend, for your mom, for your dad, for your girlfriend, for your boyfriend, for your kids, for your boss, for your boss's boss, for your coffee guy, for your burrito guy, for that dude over there, for New York City."

Launching a floating pool isn't as easy as constructing it and sending it out to sea, of course. The +Pool founders have spent the better part of three years meeting with city and federal agencies in order to navigate permitting and meet environmental standards. At this point, the founders hope to get it up and running by the summer of 2016, and are presently assessing five sites in and around New York's waterways for the swimming pool.

The team is continuing its fundraising drive—which first culminated in over $250,000 of contributions via a 2013 Kickstarter campaign—in order to finance the next stage of water filtration testing. The first two phases, completed in the summer of 2014, experimented with material combinations which meant a mixed bag of results. By the fourth phase of testing, +Pool figured out the right mix and achieved a clean water rating.

To help raise money for the "largest corwdfunded civic architecture project of all time" (and to finance the complex water filtration tests they need to make +Pool function), Family and PlayLab are selling individual tiles that will later be used to line the sides of the giant public pool. So far, 1,357 tiles have been pledged. (You can even see the complete list of backers.)

So how to chip in? +Pool's first annual Swim Benefit is being held on Wednesday, October 29 at Jane's Carousel on the Brooklyn waterfront. Join board members Joshua David, co-founder of the Highline; Karen Wong, deputy director of the New Museum; and Marc Kushner, co-founder of Architizer; along with the founders of Opening Ceremony and Olympic medalist swimmer Conor Dywer. You can also help support the cause at the benefit auction, where you can bid on a private swim lesson with Dwyer.

Summer 2014 saw the launch of Float Lab, a mini, temporary and floating science-lab version of + POOL's water filtration system at Pier 40 in Hudson River Park.


Google Dashboard built out an updates page for +Pool's Floating Lab, where you can chart the progress of each day's water filtration tests and play around with data modules.

Wong, Franklin, Coates, and Oanescu celebrate a clean water rating in the tank at Float Lab.

To get involved as the project scales up, follow +Pool, purchase a pool tile, bid on a swimming lesson with Olympian Conor Dwyer, or attend the first annual Swim Benefit on October 29, 2014.


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