+Pool, A Floating Pool For NYC’s East River, Plans A 2015 Opening

Remember the 2011 Kickstarter campaign to build a giant floating pool that was just zany enough to work?

By all accounts, +Pool was destined to languish in its creators’ portfolios, a forgotten project of summer 2010. The idea–to build a floating pool in the East River–was expensive, long-term, and so nonchalantly radical it seemed like half a joke.


But in the year since they unveiled their proposal, the three young designers behind +Pool–Archie Coates and Jeffrey Franklin from Playlab, and Dong-Ping Wong from Family–have been hard at work. They raised $41,000 on Kickstarter, funding a summer of water filtration system research. They built a team of designers, Columbia science professors, and ARUP engineers, and set up a riverside science lab. They secured the support of senators, city advocates, and newspapers–their idea even got retweeted by Jay-Z, himself a budding civic philanthropist.

On October 1st, the team launched a second wave of fundraising, with a new website and a campaign called EVERYBODY + Pool. Their goal is to raise $1 million over the next six months, through a partnership with nonprofit Storefront for Art and Architecture. If they’re successful, they’ll be able to fund the construction (and very pricey permitting) of a prototype pool over the summer of 2013.

What’s so difficult about building a floating pool, you ask? After all, Copenhagen did it. What distinguishes +Pool from a big, expensive above-ground pool is its filtration system. The team wants to actively improve the water quality of the East River, by constructing the pool out of a unique series of filters that would make the notoriously toxic waters fit for humans. The pool would release 500,000 gallons of filtered water back into the channel every day. And after a year of testing systems in the river, they feel confident enough to install a test pool, with a tentative goal of opening the +Pool in summer of 2015. Beyonce, they hope, will play opening day.

At a Monday night party at the Brooklyn Brewery, only two blocks away from the river, the team thanked its supporters with beer and brats. “Over the past year, we’ve tried to put the pool in front of everyone who will need to eventually approve the project,” Dong-Ping Wong told Co.Design. “There’s usually about 30 minutes of them saying things like ‘that’s cute.’ or ‘good luck with that!’ And sometimes a little cynicism, along with questions. ‘Have you talked to this guy?’ and so on. Then, after about 30 minutes of that, they start to get excited.”

Ten or twenty years ago, +Pool would have seemed impossible. But the design team points recent precedents, like the High Line, to illustrate how community organizing and social networking can leverage big, crazy ideas. After all, if two Chelsea freelancers could rally a city behind an elevated park, why can’t three Brooklyn architects do the same for a pool?

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.