PlayLab and Family Design Team Makes a Splash With Floating + POOL


A rendering of + POOL
A rendering of + POOL

Indeed, the youthful scruff and casualness of the PlayLab-Family studio belies the scope of + POOL and seems a bit out of place on genteel Perry Street. It’s a scrappy ensemble; Mr. Wong hurriedly stuffed envelopes during the interview. The designers, who began collaborating in 2007—Messrs. Coates and Franklin, both 29, had been classmates at Virginia Tech; Messrs. Franklin and Wong, 33, were previously colleagues at REX Architecture  P.C.— worked peripatetically through Brooklyn before making the leap to the West Village.

“Basically, I just got really lucky,” Mr. Wong said. “The person that bought the building was a former colleague of mine. I think there’s no way we’d end up in this neighborhood otherwise [laughs].”

The team, whose previous New York project was a relatively modest installation at the Festival of Ideas for the New City, hopes its luck, branding savvy and political capital extends to City Hall, which it hopes to win over by May 2015. Should they get all the necessary approvals, the young designers plan to open + POOL around July 4, 2016.

For now, details beyond style, engineering, financing and a projected opening date remain unresolved. The renderings that caught so many eyes showed the floating pool just beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. But Mr. Wong said the team is also considering locations along the Hudson River and off Governors Island.

“We liked the Brooklyn Bridge for renderings because of the view itself,” he said. “But there are many sites around the city that would work [for the first + POOL and potential reproductions]. We want to find the best location for the first one.”

Other unresolved issues range from mundane matters like crowd control (see: the chaotic reopening of the McCarren Park pool) to the cataclysmic, like another Superstorm Sandy. “The good news,” Mr. Wong said of Sandy’s effect on the plan, “is we’d already started designing it as something that could withstand major storms. I mean, it floats [laughs]. So it can ride major waves. The bigger concern is [debris] washing into the pool.”

As for admissions, Mr. Wong said the goal was to keep the cost of entry “as cheap as possible, or free.” At most, entry would cost $4. Timed admissions and online traffic reports, meanwhile, could alleviate overcrowding.

It was reported after PlayLab and Family reached their Kickstarter goal that they would install a miniature test + POOL this summer. That hasn’t happened yet, and the trio (in addition to their collaborators ARUP and IDEO) are reworking the testing process into a three-phase experiment.

Should the bold project become a milestone reality, one final hurdle will be convincing New Yorkers with an almost endemic fear of filthy river water to take the plunge.

“If you tell people there’s a safe, rectangular place to swim, it completely changes how they understand the water,” Mr. Wong said. “It’s crazy that it’s such a big psychological thing. You have to show them that it’s possible.”