Angelenos love pools.
If the early 20th century marked the first golden age of municipal pools in the United States, we are now in pool 2.0 where the blue splash is booming in the domestic oases. As a signifier of hedonism, escapism, individual lifestyle, and Hollywood, backyard pools attached to single-family homes have swamped Los Angeles since the 1950s. County of Los Angeles Open Data shows that the number of residential pools hit 282,000 by 2019 and is still rising.1 On the other hand, there are fewer than 60 public pools in LA, and the infrastructure is slowly failing due to aging and maintenance issues.2
The thesis investigates the ancient archetype of the Roman thermae where baths were combined with libraries, theaters, and game rooms. Accessible to all classes of Roman society, they became essential public spaces of civic engagement facilitating social interaction, leisure, and mindfulness. A state of “productive idleness” as opposed to aimless entertainment, or otium in Roman terms, was achieved in the thermae.
The thesis critiques the exclusive privileged space the backyard pools have created and seeks to revive the public pools as a civic field. Learning from the Roman, Pool 3.0 shall serve as a healthy space for both the individual and social bodies, juxtaposing programs of entertainment, education, culture, and sanitation for diverse communities. Located at the intersection of the Civic Center, Little Tokyo, and the Arts District in Downtown LA, the project reimagines a new urban ritual of public pooling for the Angelenos.
1 County of Los Angeles Open Data, “Assessor Parcels Data – 2006 Thru 2019” (County of Los Angeles), accessed September 20, 2019, https://data.lacounty.gov/Parcel-/Assessor-Parcels-Data-2006-thru-2019/9trm-uz8i/data.
2 Jon Kirk Mukri, “Department of Recreation and Parks 2006 Pool Assessment Report” (Los Angeles: City of Los Angeles, July 18, 2006).