Pools have been the centre of hedonistic parties, famous pop art motifs and architectural ambitions. We look at some of the most spectacular ones
What's technically nothing more than a hole in the ground filled with water has for centuries been an integral part of social life and has sparked our imagination as a symbol for all things glamour and fun. For the longest time reserved to a privileged few, humans have always found a way to get close to a vessel filled with water, as the ingenious example in the last photo above shows. Long before pools became the playground of Californian backyards and European seaside villas, the Greeks and Romans had the art of building public and private baths and pools down to a T – one of the grandest being the Baths of Diocletian covering a total of 32 acres, featuring basins for swimming and many recreational amenities. In the last century, private pools became increasingly popular in the US thanks to swimming star and actress Esther Williams’ movies (left) such as Million Dollar Mermaid (1952), while later on Europe saw La Piscine, a 1969 Italian-French film directed by Jacques Deray with Alain Delon and Romy Schneider. Hidden beneath a beautiful surface, the film shows the dark side of relationships with the pool playing the silent extra, witnessing the unfolding events. The opening shots promise the relaxed and glamorous summer cavorting that the Côte d'Azur is famous for while in the end we’re left to realise that rage and jealousy cannot be cooled off in mere water – quite to the contrary.
So from a blown up rubber pool for the children to splash around in the backyard, often occupied by adult’s feet and beer bottles, to the most stunning and luxurious hotel pools it seems that water – just like fire – fills one of our most basic needs for relaxation and social connection. Thereby, pools can also act as rather obvious status symbols but having been a guest at numerous pool parties and holiday homes with a pool and a generous host, I’d be the last one to complain.
That, however, would explain why ever since humans have built elaborate residences, swimming pools have been subject to extremes: larger, higher, deeper and ever more beautiful.
We look at some of the most spectacular, present and past (in order of photos above):
1. Vertigo inducing
Hang on to your pants – if you’re scared of heights, you might want to give these ones a miss.
The Joule Hotel in Dallas
'SkyPark', Marina Bay Sands development in Singapore. At three times the length of an Olympic pool and 650ft up, it is the largest outdoor pool in the world at that height.
Read more about SkyPark.
2. Over the edge
For the ultimate experience infinity pools have been a firm favourite. What better way than to spend a warm evening relaxing in a pool with drinks in close reach and listening to music, without having to tear one’s eyes from the view.
Elie Saab Residence, Faqra, Lebanon
Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture
Infinity pool at the Perivolas Hotel in Greece - one of the most beautiful around.
3. All mixed up
Love the ocean but not in a wipe-out sort of way? These pools might be for you.
Ocean pool in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
The Icebergs, Bondi Beach
What seem to be a Roman public bath or at least a pool to house a whole football team was once one man’s private pool – or one of them at least.
Hearst Castle Neptune pool, built between 1919 and 1947 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Now a state park.
If you think size matters, well, you’ll have to get up early to swim a few lengths in this one.
Chilean resort of San Alfonso del Mar with the largest pool in the world – 1 km long.