+POOL’s public art installation in the East River illuminates water quality

October 4, 2019

Rendering of + POOL Light. Designed by PlayLab and Family New York. Image courtesy Friends of + POOL

Designed by PLAYLAB, INC. and Family New York in collaboration with Floating Point, a new project from the team behind the +POOL concept makes it possible for anyone to visualize water conditions in NYC’s Harbor using a light installation and an interactive website. The 50-foot x 50-foot plus-shaped “+POOL Light” is installed at the Seaport District at Lower Manhattan’s Pier 17, continuously changing color based on the condition of the water in which it floats, from great for swimming to not-so-great. The installation debuted last night and will be on view until January 3rd.

Designed by PLAYLAB, INC. and Family New York; Photo by Iwan Baan

The installation consists of an LED sculpture that glows teal when pathogens show up in the water but predictive Enterococci levels are safe for swimming (below 35 CFU) and pink when levels reach unsafe swimming levels. The sculpture’s lights also change direction based on the flow of the current. The light’s brightness, frequency, and sharpness reflect oxygen, turbidity, and pH.

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Screenshot of the public dashboard, design by Reaktor

The data you can see when you look at the sculpture is also sent to an online public dashboard, developed in partnership with Reaktor, that explains the science behind the changing lights and tracks water quality metrics that might affect a swimmer’s experience, such as temperature, turbidity, and salinity.

Commissioned by Friends of +POOL, Inc., the installation is viewable from the Brooklyn waterfront and the bridges that connect Brooklyn with Manhattan. The project raises awareness about the state of our rivers; its design–the “+” is a symbol of positivity–references the positive progress we’ve made since the Clean Water Act of 1972. According to the folks behind “+POOL Light,” it’s also a symbol of inclusivity: The water that surrounds us belongs to everyone rather than any one single group.

+POOL light, +POOL, floating pool
Rendering by Family New York, Courtesy of Friends of + POOL

+POOL is not a new project: the team has been working on installing a floating pool with its own river-cleaning filtration system in one of New York City’s rivers since 2010, but it has yet to find a site for its plus-shaped swimming pool that will include a kiddie pool, sports pool, lap pool, and a lounge pool and will filter the river that it floats in through the walls of the pool, making for safe swimming.

Floating pools were popular in New York City during the overcrowded days of the 19th century. Officials opened pools to serve as public baths. The earliest of these were built on the Hudson and East Rivers beginning in 1870. By 1890, the city was home to 15 floating pools.

Increasing pollution made the baths unusable, and all of the pools were shut down by the 1940s. Today, there is one remaining floating pool in the city, and it’s the only one in the country as well, though the pool, located at Barretto Point Park in Hunts Point, is chlorinated and not self-filtering.

Last month, the city’s Economic Development Corporation released a request for expressions of interest for ideas for a floating pool that would filter the water of the East River to allow for safe swimming. At the time, the team behind +POOL said they are looking forwarding to submitting their proposal.


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