The Springboard in Th Pond: An Intimate History of the Swimming Pool

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Mit Press, 1998 - Architecture - 321 pages
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Although others have written eloquently on the relationship of water to built form, until now no one has investigated the swimming pool as a quintessentially modern and American space, reflecting America's infatuation with hygiene, skin, and recreation. In The Springboard in the Pond, Thomas van Leeuwen looks at a familiar hole—the domestic swimming pool—and discovers an icon indispensable to the reading of twentieth-century modernism.

At one level, the book is a rereading of modern architecture that will leave that story permanently altered. At another level, it is the story of the origin and evolution of the private swimming pool as a building type and cultural artifact. And at still another level, it is a material philosophy of water. Van Leeuwen explores the human relationship to water from a variety of viewpoints: social, religious, artistic, sexual, psychological, technical, and above all architectural. Throughout the book, he weaves a series of analogies to three emblematic animals—frog, swan, and penguin—that represent the three prevailing human attitudes toward water: hydrophilia, hydrophobia, and ambivalence. The books many illustrations—drawings, plans, and photographs—come from an unusual variety of sources, creating what is surely the most provocative visual archive of the swimming pool ever assembled.

This book is the second in a planned tetralogy by the author, with each volume centered on the relationship of architecture to one of the four classical elements: sky, water, fire, and earth. The first volume was The Skyward Trend of Thought: The Metaphysics of the American Skyscraper (MIT Press, 1988). The third volume, Columns of Fire: Architecture and Destruction, is currently in preparation.

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The springboard in the pond: an intimate history of the swimming pool

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Descending from van Leeuwen's towering The Skyward Trend of Thought: The Metaphysics of the American Skyscraper (MIT, 1990. o.p.), this is the second volume of a projected tetralogy on the ... Read full review

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About the author (1998)

Van Leeuwen is Professor of Architectural History and Criticism at the University of Leyden, the Netherlands.