The designer: John Lautner. The location: Palm Springs. The aesthetic: Aliens go to architecture school. The Prussian-blue waters of a crescent-shaped swimming pool cross into a glass-walled room, and a domed ceiling made of alternating concrete and glass-window spokes looms overhead. Natural boulders frame steps leading up to a minimalist living room that features a single curved, pink-tinted sofa. Near one of the largest
windows sits a glass table, topped with a bursting pink bouquet. Natural light brushes
the pool’s surface and breaks into tiny, prismatic rainbows.
This is one of many arresting images in Splash: The Art of the Swimming Pool, Rizzoli’s new art book on all things aquatic by design and travel writer Annie Kelly and architecture and design photographer Tim Street-Porter. More than a catalog of impressive swimming pools in aspirational locales (including Mexico City, Beverly Hills, Palm Beach, and, of course, Palm Springs), the coffee-table tome is also a history book and how-to guide for designers and dreamers contemplating their own personal oasis.
John Lautner’s Elrod House
The introduction to Splash: The Art of the Swimming Pool details humanity’s centuries-long relationship with pools: “Roman emperors,” Kelly reveals, “enjoyed private swimming pools in which fish were also kept.” Later sections devote more space to practical tips than wacky facts — though the latter make great pool party ice breakers — with tips ranging from guidelines for would-be lagoon-builders to achieve their ideal water color (aqua, dark blue, or green) to how to prevent a pool area from resembling a “maximum-security stockade” (The key: evergreen hedges shielding chain-link fences). While advice abounds, Kelly reminds readers that style decrees can be, well, slippery. Infinity pools, for example, “look just as good beside a modernist house in Palm Springs as next to a thatched-roof retreat in Mexico.”
A section on over-the-top oases reminds readers, “There are no real rules for fantasy pools” — a satisfyingly rhyme-y mantra. Nevertheless, Kelly lays out multiple strategies for constructing a swimming hole worthy of Mount Olympus, from underwater art to palatial poolside backdrops. For those who happen to have settled down in, say, Bali, the location provides all the fantasy you need, a point proved by Street-Porter’s photos of turquoise waters reflecting tropical environs or overlooking pristine beaches.
Of course, there are dream pools aplenty a bit closer to home. Kelly notes that Palm Springs “is all about swimming pools,” and nowhere is this more apparent than at the Morrison-Strassner house, where a round white pavilion in the center of a circular swimming pool lends new meaning to dining poolside. Street-Porter frames the shot to include the lounge-ready white settees across the yard and the mountain views. The pool deck extends into a wide bridge, providing a splash-free passage to the sturdy, mid-mod dining table . With the sky overhead its own pale, perfect shade of blue, the pool seems to beckon the viewer, saying, “Come on in, the water’s fine.”