The Origins of Swimming Pool Design

The “Great Bath” at the site of Mohenjo-Daro in modern-day Pakistan was most likely the first swimming pool, dug during the 3rd millennium BC.

Swimming pools have been around for more than five thousand years. However, it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that their popularity began to spread. By 1837 six indoor pools with diving boards were designed and built in London.

Swimming finally began to take off following the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, which included swimming races.

After the Second World War, swimming pool design and construction saw tremendous growth. This could be attributed to the fact that millions of people were given swimming training during the war, creating a greater interest in the sport.

Home swimming pools became popular in the United States and the publicity given to swimming sports by Hollywood films like Esther Williams Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) made a home pool a desirable status symbol. Mirroring the glamour of Hollywood, Los Angeles quickly became the “swimming pool capital of the world”.

By the 1970s, there were more than a million swimming pools in the United States, many of them private residential pools. Today there are ten times this amount, including 3 million spas and hot tubs.

Design Evolution

The uniquely landscaped walled garden makes this an ideal retreat or a perfect spot for entertaining.

The greatest change in pools and spas over the years has been in the area of design.

Contemporary pools run the gamut from pint-size plunge pools to competitive-length lap pools, round reflecting pools to freeform recreational pools, striking architectural pools with vanishing edges to naturalistic pools edged with rocks, waterfalls and lush plantings.

Pools can be designed to fit almost any budget, suit just about any size, and complement most architectural styles. They can be built indoors or out, with or without a spa, and accented with an amazing array of add-on features – from fountains and cascades to beaches, underwater benches, and massaging jets.

This 20-metre basement lap pool has a sense of simplicity whilst making a strong architectural statement. The use of colourful lighting creates a distinctive and contemporary look.

Technological advancements, new systems of construction and the increase in the number of private pools being built have seen a growth in the variety of style and types available. New materials, customer demands and design trends have also been influential in the development and updating of pools and their surroundings.

The prominence of the pool has increased too. Its use is now more regular, often accessed several times a day, and it is frequently utilised throughout the year, rather than just seasonally.

One of the most common developments in pool design is that it has become integral to a living space. Swimming pools and spas are frequently included as an extension of the home, and a feature that complements the house or building to which it inhabits. Pools are also being designed as part of the landscape so that they are integral or sympathetic to the land or garden in which they sit.

How We Design a Swimming Pool

With so many choices in pool and spa design, determining the needs of the end user is the most important starting point. The location, shape, size, depth and features of a pool are all determined by how it is intended to be used – whether for exercise, relaxation or recreation.

Pool shapes and sizes have undergone a metamorphosis, with angular boxes being replaced with softer outlines. These organic shapes are more adaptable and can maximise the area available within the restricted environs of an urban patio or basement. Freeform designs can also work in an awkwardly shaped area.

To complement the move toward organic shapes, there has been a shift to more natural colours for pool linings. More subtle shades of grey, green and beige are being chosen because they blend into the landscape and are less harsh and jarring in interior settings. There is also a trend away from solid colour. Instead, new pools are being lined with tiles or tinted concrete finishes.

Heath and Safety

Pool and spa safety must always be the most important design consideration where surfaces are hard and may be slippery. In the construction of a heated pool, spa bath or hot tub, there is the potential for water and electricity to meet. This lethal combination must be avoided at all costs, so the installation must be done using only recommended materials and by a qualified professional with expertise in pool building. All filters and vents should be protected with adequate guards to prevent mechanisms from coming into contact with clothing, fingers, toes or hair.

Child and animal-proof fences and pool covers are also useful. Not only do they effectively shut off or seal the surface of the pool, keeping the water safely away from direct contact with children, but the cover will also help to keep the water clean and conserve heat.

Getting in and out of the water may be difficult for children, the elderly or those with walking difficulties, but a gently sloping beach-type entrance will make access easier. Rails and handles on the sides of steps are also beneficial, as are gently graduated steps rather than a steep ladder.

If the pool is to be used by children, then it is advisable to have a graduated base or two-level pool, with one end shallow and the other end deeper for an adult swimming and diving. The shallow end will prevent children from being intimidated by the depth of the water and will also allow an adult to stand comfortably and securely beside a child while supervising them.

The health aspects of pools and hot tubs are also important. A swimmer is only lightly clothed, so the ambient and pool temperatures should be comfortably warm, especially for pools used by small children or the elderly who feel the cold more acutely than an active adult. People with sensitive skin, allergies or complaints such as eczema may find that regular or prolonged contact with pool chemicals can irritate the eyes and skin. Breathing problems can be affected by the chemicals in a pool, especially indoor pools where the chemical vapour lies above the surface of the warm water in the zone where you breathe in the air during exercising. Effective ventilation and judicious chemical control, augmented by more recent systems like UV disinfection will improve the pool hall atmosphere.

The Future of Pool Design

From recreational to rehabilitative use, from family fun to a focal feature in a home or garden, the variety of options when it comes to designing a custom swimming pool is endless. Additional options such as lighting/sound requirements, automatic or safety pool covers, automatic chemical closing systems, filtration/water treatment, environmental heating control systems, solar heating or ground source heat pumps all add to the mix.

For advice on innovative ideas utilising the latest technology available including energy saving ideas that will ensure that the running costs are kept to a minimum, call Aqua Blue to discuss your project.

Useful Links

SPATA – The Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association sets the standards governing the construction and operation of swimming pools, saunas and steam facilities. The association has an internationally-respected reputation for quality and can assist you in finding contractors, swimming pool designers, service engineers, trade suppliers, and retailers of pool equipment and ancillaries.

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