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The Best Artist-Designed Swimming Pools in the World

best artist-designed swimming pools in the world

This summer has seen heat waves sweep across the continental US and most of Western Europe. Which got us to thinking about swimming pools. Then a message crossed our desks about a gorgeous artist-designed swimming pool in Edinburgh that will be open to the public until the third week of August. Which made us wonder: are there other artist-designed swimming pools? Turns out there are. Here are 10 of the best artist designed swimming pools in the world. We’d love to take a cooling dip in almost every one of them (we’re looking at you, number 10).

Contemporary Artist-Designed Swimming Pools

There’s something about modern and contemporary artists and water. And in the middle of the summer, it’s a phenomenon worth exploring. Does art + a pool of water = exquisite experience? Dear reader, we decided to find out.

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With thanks and credit to The Art Newspaper, Architectural Design and Vogue, here are 10 of the best, most intriguing and fanciful artist-designed swimming pools of note around the world. Some are currently open to the public to view – and a handful are even available for swimming. We can only hope that’s a gesture that catches on, at least until the dog days are done.

The Best Artist-Designed Swimming Pools in the World

1. Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh, Scotland

The 100-acre Jupiter Artland contemporary sculpture park in Edinburgh features a luxury immersive experience that’s rare and wonderful, especially in the middle of a heat wave. It’s a swimming pool that is both functional and fantastic. Created by the Portugese artist Joana Vasconcelos, the work is entitled Gateway. It took three years to construct, and because it is a public art installation, it’s open for business from July 29 – August 22, 2019 (advanced ticket purchase required, tickets are £5 each, in addition to a general admission ticket of £8).

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The pool has 11,366 hand-painted tiles from Portugal, and it has a spiritual dimension. It sits on a series of geometric alignments connecting various spiritual sites. And dotted around the base are 12 stones engraved with the 12 signs of the zodiac. Swimmers can see them clearly when they glide along the bottom of the pool. 

best artist-designed swimming pools

The best artist designed swimming pools in the world: Gateway at the Jupiter Artspace in Edinburgh. Photo Credit: The Telegraph.

2. The Hotel Metropole, Monte Carlo

Imagined and designed by legendary designer and artist Karl Lagerfeld, the Odyssey garden and pool at the Hotel Metropole in Monte Carlo is a fabulous mash-up of fashion, art and wellness.

Lagerfeld’s contributions include a constellation of lights for the pool floor. And a 65-foot-long installation that adorns the walls of the pool patio, inspired by The Iliad and The Odyssey. Working with toga-clad models, Lagerfeld shot a series of black-and-white tableaux that were then etched onto large glass panels. 

best artist-designed swimming pools in the world

The best artist designed swimming pools in the world: Karl Lagerfeld stands beside the pool at Monaco’s Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo. Photo: Emanuele Scorcelletti

2. Le Confort Moderne, Poitiers, France

James Turrell’s Heavy Water was installed in 1991 at the Confort Moderne cultural center in Poitiers, France – it’s about 200 miles southwest of Paris. Turrell built a square swimming pool and designed one-piece bathing suits for visitors to don before diving into the work. It’s now owned by the French Cultural Ministry.

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3. The Roosevelt Hotel, Los Angeles

British artist David Hockney is famous for his ability to evoke the sunny hot climes of Southern California. In 1988, he created the physical embodiment of an endless Cali idyll. At the historic Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, in just a single morning, Hockney covered the bottom of the pool with a pattern of small half-moons and squiggly lines. Apparently, local public safety authorities tried to paint over the original Hockney mural. But when informed that it was worth at least $1 million, they relented. The Tropicana Pool is still there, and still open to hotel guests.

David Hockney is the artist who designed The Tropicana Pool at the Roosevelt Hotel in LA. Photo Credit: Pop Sugar.

4. Studio City, California

Pop artist Ed Ruscha created a lasting work of art in his younger brother Paul’s pool. It was later photographed for the first and only issue of PUSH magazine, which is probably the only way that any of us will ever see it. Although apparently when it was first unveiled, helicopters flew over the property frequently to get a glimpse. Ruscha painted a registration card on the bottom of his brother’s pool, with the letters shimmering in the sapphire water.

best artist-designed swimming pools in the world

Artist Ed Ruscha designed this swimming pool for his brother, Paul. Photo Credit: Architectural Digest

5. Inhotim Institute, Brazil

Argentinian artist Jorge Macchi worked with the Brazilian contemporary art museum the Inhotim Institute to create the site-specific work Piscina. The focal point of his swimming pool-cum-art work is a staircase made of index tabs that descend into the water. It’s meant to evoke an old address book with the letters A-Z. It’s open to the public, so if you’re in town, stop by and have a swim.

artist-designed swimming pools

Piscina at the Inhotim Institute. Photo Credit: Pedro Motta, mottapedro@terra.com.br.

6. Carmine Street Pool, New York City

In 1987, Keith Haring painted one of his famous murals alongside the pool at what was then named the Carmine Street Pool (it is now known as the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center). The work features his trademark “stick figures,” along with dolphins, mermen and fish.

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7. The Mohave Desert

Austrian artist Alfredo Barsuglia created his work Social Pool in 2014. It was intended to be open for public use. The only catch? It’s in the Mohave Desert. It functioned as a working public pool for a while, then closed. But Vogue reports that it may reopen soon. Perhaps in time for its 5th anniversary?

Social Pool, 2014.

8. The 21st Century Museum of Art, Kanazawa, Japan

Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich built his work Swimming Pool, a full-size pool, in 1999. Equipped with a ladder and a deck, when viewed from above it appeared to be filled with fully-clothed people walking around on the bottom.

From below, viewers see a thin strip of glass that gives them the illusion that they’re underwater. Originally shown at P.S. 1 in New York, and then at the Venice Biennele, it’s now at the 21st Century Museum of Art in Kanazawa, Japan.

Swimming Pool by Leandro Erlich is now a permanent installation at the 21st Century Museum of Art of Kanazawa, Japan.

9. Residence of Rosette Delug, Los Angeles

In a 2010 interview with Interview, art collector and “It Girl” Rosette Delug shared the following story about her famous artist-designed swimming pool.

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The Lawrence Weiner text piece—which reads “Stretched As Tightly As Is Possible (Satin) (Petroleum Jelly)” across the floor of the pool—used to be red. A few weeks before she was to host a party for Weiner’s retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008, a pool man came and accidentally washed the red to a lavender. “I sent Lawrence pictures, and he said he actually liked it that way,” she remembers. “I’m not one to go against the artist’s wishes.”

The pool at the LA home of Rosette DeLug. Photo Courtesy: Interview Magazine.

10. The New Museum, New York City

We end with a cautionary tale about what can happen when the heat of the summer combines with deep creative impulses. Artsy details the story of a truly innovative pool experience from a few years back.

Artist Carsten Höller crafted Giant Psycho Tank in 1999. Visitors to Höller’s 2011–12 “Experience” show at the New Museum were encouraged to disrobe and float in a shallow pool of an epsom salt solution. The salt held the viewer in perfect equilibrium. Höller said at the time that the tank was meant to induce such extreme relaxation that visitors would begin to have an out-of-body experience. However, as critics have pointed out, laying naked in the middle of a crowded museum might not be the most effective way to have a spiritual experience. You think?

Artist-designed swimming pools

The addition of artist designed swimming pools to existing sculpture gardens and parks seems to be an accelerating trend. The Art Newspaper reports that Vasconcelos is working on installations at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. We love this! More, please. Art plus water generally turns out to be a winning combination.

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