Pools: The architecture of swimming

Swimming pools are as much a part of Ibiza’s architectural landscape as dry stone walls and olive trees. The call of the Mediterranean Sea is strong and persuasive, but there is nothing more luxurious than slipping into your own private swimming pool on a hot summer’s day or evening. It’s a sensation that has ancient roots – it is believed that the first public swimming pool was the Great Bath built in the 3rd millennium BC at Mohenjo-daro in what is now Pakistan. Even though the Great Bath was probably used more for ritual purification than as a place to dive bomb, as Ancient Roman and Greek cultures flourished more baths and pools appeared in the architecture.

Roman Emperors were known to keep fish in their pools, hence the Latin word piscina (meaning fishpond) becoming part of the Spanish language. Swimming was included in the school curriculum in Ancient Rome, where it’s thought the very first purpose-built leisure pools were constructed, with the Roman penchant for luxury seeing wealthy nobleman Gaius Maecenas install the world’s first heated pool.

Architecture and art have always walked hand in hand, yet the swimming pool seems to be the least likely place to find a work of art. Henri Matisse spent a day under the blazing sun at a public swimming pool in Cannes, and on his return to his hotel suite studio in Nice, decided to create his own swimming pool. The resulting artwork was his only site-specific installation and is now held by MOMA in New York. The white strip of paper is populated by his distinctive blue figures, whose movements perfectly reflect the shimmering shapes of swimmers in water. Conceptual genius James Turrell started to introduce water into his work with Heavy Water shown at Le Confort Moderne in Poitiers. One part of the installation included a purpose-built plunge pool and a specially designed set of retro-styled bathing suits for those who wanted to become part of the art.

Probably the most famous swimming pool in art would be David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash (1967). The legendary British artist featured pools in many of his works and even painted the surface of the pool at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles with variegated blue squiggles that seem to flicker every time someone dives in. The pool didn’t reach health and safety standards, but was awarded a special dispensation because of the cultural significance of Hockney’s handiwork. However, do not expect the same kind of largesse from the authorities in Ibiza.

The Roosevelt is not the only one to engage an artist-stroke-pool designer. An Austrian dealer commissioned Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury to create an obsidian black pool with the words be amazing extolled across the deep end in stainless steel. In the late 80s, Paul Ruscha asked his pop-art luminary brother Ed to build him a swimming pool. His only brief was that he needed lanes to keep track of his laps. Ed played around with the typefaces used on standard government forms and the pool ended up looking like the first stanzas of a loan application or a luggage tag. American artist Lawrence Weiner conceived of a swimming pool for a favoured collector that consists of a bright red tag splayed along the bottom with the words Stretched as Tightly as is Possible / (Satin) & (Petroleum Jelly).

Ritual baths, Roman indulgence and art world jet setters aside, swimming pools have become a standard feature in houses across the island and are as individual as the people who swim in them. Often these essential parts of the design are left to last, added as an afterthought and ending up in the standard shapes and colours. But Blakstad Design Consultants see the swimming pool as a great opportunity to bring individuality to your garden and the overall design themes of your property.

Modern technologies and materials allow a much greater design freedom and the possibilities are endless. Rustic pools with waterfalls and stepping stones fit beautifully for properties set within rolling countryside. Sleek quadrangular shapes and hints of blue work well for seaside estates, where the delineation between pool and sea views becomes blurred into a blissful spectrum. The terraced plots of Ibiza mean the underside of the pool can be used to create a gym or extra water tank. And there’s no doubt you could lure a world-famous artist to come and design your Ibiza swimming pool.

Like all of our projects, we approach garden design and therefore pool design from the perspective of the people who will inhabit the house. Those with small children might opt for a graduated shallow end; those into swimming for exercise might like to add a lap pool to their design; others might enjoy the romance of a swimming pond complete with sandy banks and a rowboat or a Roman style bath house with rustic tiling and mosaic details. The vast majority of our designs feature swimming pools and the options are limited only to the imagination. The one thing that is certain is that a pool is a necessary luxury for a true Ibiza lifestyle.

© Copyright – Blakstad Ibiza

© Copyright – Blakstad Ibiza