A few years ago Alex showed us +Pool, a wonderful idea for a floating pool filled with New York river water that was filtered by the walls of the pool. What started then with three young architects and designers has turned into a big interdisciplinary team of architects, designers, engineers and ecologists. Now they have just raised over a quarter of a million dollars in the largest crowdfunded civic project ever, to build a small floating working prototype. The designers write:
+ POOL is designed to filter the very river that it floats in through the walls of the pool, making it possible for New Yorkers to swim in clean river water for the first time in 100 years. The layered filtration system incrementally removes bacteria and contaminants to ensure nothing but clean, swimmable water that meets both city and state standards. No chemicals, no additives, just natural river water.
To be honest, when I read Alex's story about the pool I thought it would never float. It is one thing to develop a layered filter to remove contaminants, but without pressure to drive the water through, I thought the water was just going to sit there.
In fact, the section of the prototype that they are planning to build with the kickstarter money shows a more elaborate and plausible multi-chamber filtration design. It has a pump which will draw water through the layers of filters and looks like a miniature water filtration plant. This could work.
A remarkable thing about this project is the crowd-sourced funding. With the exception of a Bjarke Ingels type phenomenon, young architects don't get the attention that, say, young software designers do. Karen Wong writes in Architizer:
This is the Big Apple, where angel investors in a blink write seven-figure checks to 20-somethings touting the next whatever online platform. Taking risks is synonymous with innovation but rarely is this demonstrated in the built environment in New York City. By the time architects are 28, they have accumulated seven years of schooling and three years of training. In a town that is youth-obsessed, architects have largely been excluded from the sandbox....
When the bell rang on Friday morning, July 12, $273,114 had been raised. Seventy percent of the pledges came from 2,600 people who gave between $25 and $199 dollars. While the city remained on the sidelines, 3,175 citizens stepped in and seeded the floating lab, the crucial mini-prototype that will demonstrate the filtration system in situ. It’s a resounding demonstration of the public’s belief in young architects to rethink public space and manifest the untapped capital of waterways to benefit the common good.
Indeed. It will take a lot more money (like $15 million) to build the full size pool but as Karen notes, that's chump change in New York. In 2016 it may well be floating swimmingly.
Perhaps Rem Koolhaas will join the party with the pool he designed in 1977.