New Uses for Old Waterways

If the concept of inserting a swimming pool into the waters surrounding lower Manhattan seems somewhat radical, it does have its precedent.

That pool, shaped like a plus mark, has been proposed by Dong-Ping Wong of F A M I L Y Architects, along with Archie Lee Coates IV and Jeffrey Franklin of PlayLab.  They want to use an innovative water filtration system to provide a clean and safe way for the public to swim in New York’s waters.

They’re already well on their way, using kickstarter as an online fundraising mechanism.

But Miami-based NC-office began to explore the use of the waters in Miami’s Biscayne Bay back in 2006, proposing a Venice-like playground of palm trees and swimming pools spread out over an existing grid of 4,000 artificial islands.

“It’s a public recreation space for a waterfront urban condition,” NC-office’s Cristina Canton said of Palm Oasis, the firm’s competition-winning entry. “Within the islands with palm trees will be areas for pools, barbecue stations and gardens.”

The 30-foot grid of concrete and wooden pilings, shaped like pyramids, is left over from an ambitious island-building project initiated in 1925.  A hurricane in 1926 slowed progress, and the Great Depression put a halt to it altogether.  Other proposals for it have included amusement parks and casinos, but nothing has borne fruit.

Palm Oasis suggests connecting the grid, Julia Tuttle Causeway and DiLido Island via pedestrian bridges.  Overlaid within the grid of palms are flexible program zones for concerts, picnics, movies, and contemplation.

Between the palms, narrow canals navigable by canoes or other small vessels will ensure the park remains undisturbed, creating a quiet haven for both the natural and the man-made.

“What’s there now is very peaceful, because boats can’t get in,” Canton said.  “It’s a quiet haven that’s accessible by kayak or canoe.”

Each project – the + Pool in New York and Palm Oasis in Miami – signifies a new wave in innovative thinking about the recreational use of America’s waterways.   Importantly, it’s all to the public’s benefit.

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For more on pluspool, go to

For more on Palm Oasis, go to