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Swimming in the City

July 19, 2010

Brooklyn sensation: dumpster pools

Last year Brooklyn hipsters became resourceful in escaping the heat and creating a social experience.  Dumpster pool parties were on the down low and invitations were not to be forwarded.  “The idea,” said David Belt, a real estate developer and the president of Macro-Sea, the company behind the pools, “was not to create an exclusive party destination but to experiment with underused space and materials, repurposing them with urban renewal in mind.”

NYC DOT’s Summer Streets initiative has moved the party to Manhattan one year later:

MacroSea has taken clean, unused shipping containers and transformed them into code-compliant swimming pools, complete with their own life guards and pool decks! The pools were an underground sensation in Brooklyn last year. MacroSea is now excited to share them with all New Yorkers as part of Summer Streets. The pools will be set up near the Grand Central viaduct and free entry bracelets will be handed out for time slots on a first come, first served basis.

Code-compliant "dumpster pools"

Last fall, I heard Charles Renfro speak about Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Field Operations’ High Line project.  He said he used to sneak into the derelict highline to hang out with friends and hold “down low” parties.  It sounded a lot like the dumpster pool phenomenon.  The Highline is now the premiere public space in the city.  Similarly, the pool idea has now taken off.  These examples speak a lot for resourceful underground urban ideas/interventions/social experiences.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 1:54 am

    Nice post – I love this idea, but I wonder if the idea of dumpster pools, somewhere in the process of becoming code complaint or whatever, have lost a lot of their original bite. Even the idea that “MacroSea has taken clean, unused shipping containers…” If the containers are unused, aren’t they subverting their own agenda?

    At the very least, the sort of urban delight and spectacle won’t be lost with the new pools on Park Avenue. And that, I gather, is what you’re interested in. It sure will be interesting to see what happens.

  2. nathanielwooten permalink
    July 22, 2010 6:02 pm

    I agree, very cool post. This sort of informal re-use architecture really excites me. I would argue that one of the reasons the city is nearing crisis is its formality. Formality supports stagnation, ignorance, and selectivity.

    Although ‘informal urbanism’ is typically associated with the slums of the megalopolis I think this term holds great potential. Like all grass-roots, bottom-up movements when this notion spreads to the middle and upper middle classes the city will be much more cable of evading crisis. Informality, collaboration, and guerrilla efforts have a chance at saving the city. It makes me think of the footage from the beginning of Last of the Mohicans during the French-Indian War. Who wins?… the traditionally clad British following centuries old civilized military protocol (ready, aim, fire, etc) or the ‘Indians’ camouflaged for their environment, each fighting with the sole purpose of victory and survival.

    Perhaps I am taking these playful pools to far, but on hot summer day in a poor New York City neighborhood, finding a free inclusive place to cool off seems like an act of survival.

  3. July 25, 2010 2:56 pm

    Great post. Creative use of waste is interesting. The containers are not necessarily waste but a byproduct of shipping and thus a creative use of our landscape of waste. More use of blank urban space or furniture I think will aid our cities and also highlight the process of doing creative things inhibited by bureaucratic function.

  4. July 29, 2010 4:31 pm

    The blog is looking sexy!

  5. July 29, 2010 8:12 pm

    There is a rural counterpart to the NYC dumpster pool which is the pickup truck pool. It’s not quite as luxurious and spacious as the dumpster but out here we work with what we have.

  6. nathanielwooten permalink
    July 29, 2010 11:48 pm

    Look at Dennis trying to act all country… haha. But true, you do have to give it to rural folk., can be pretty good problem solvers.

    Im gonna try to steer this in another direction.

    Check out:

    Like its sister projects throughout the world… New York’s “Floating Lady Pool” is obviously the ultimate irony. I first heard of this concept in Paris, and while a floating pool in the River Seine was certainly ironic, it is not nearly as absurd as New York. The Siene is a lil bitty river and even if its waters were completely calm and much cleaner, finding a good place to swim would be difficult. New York on the other hand has to have one of the largest amounts of ‘coastline’/waterline in the world. Think about, Manhattan, ISLAND, Staten ISLAND, Queens and Brooklyn, LONG ISLAND. It is filled and surrounded by rivers, harbors, sounds, and oceans. I would argue that not a single New Yorker lives more than 5 miles from open water, and yet there is enough demand for dumpster and floating aquatic recreation.

    I unsuccessfully started looking into some of these issues in my London studio along the Thames. I think our cultures sensitivity to aquatic environments has a long way to go. Like Nilus said, water and internet, thats our war, our religion, our atomic bomb, our space program, these two words may very well define our lifetimes. Perhaps…

    • July 30, 2010 12:22 am

      Nate – I am not sure if water and internet are ‘our war’, I know what you mean and I may be unnecessarily harsh, but I see them as the solution to the war, bomb, religion if we recognize each as a lifeblood of current humanity and a possibly connective force both spatially and physically to solve our war.

      What may even be more astounding is also the fact that many New Yorkers probably go to gyms and fitness clubs to swim in artificially induced water. The pool within water is quite ironic indeed. Our cultures ‘sensitivity to aquatic environments’ does indeed have a way to go. I think it resolves itself in two main aspects: one being the respect for natural hydrological environments [water], we seem to as a human species successfully polluted everything event the food which we eat, and two the fear of dirty water which we ironically surround ourselves with tied with the human fear for such a natural body of flowing energy. So maybe creating barge pools and dumpster pools allows us to consolidate that fear and respect into a sense of enjoyment and worry free without actually confronting why we did that. Hope I made sense.

      Nonetheless, making a barge into a swimming pool is cool as well as a dumpster or pickup truck, or what about slicing the top part of a house and water proofing it, and making it into a community pool?

      And in similiar thought:

      Slightly different direction but his reminded me of The Learning Barge:

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