In a recent discussion with San Francisco-based landscape architect Scott Lewis, he told us that the biggest shift in pool design, as he has seen it, is tinting plaster to a darker shade of a blue (rather than the blinding turquoise of midcentury pools). The effect, Lewis says, is a more natural palette–more restful–and creates a reflective surface for the sky.
As it turns out, architects from Alvar Aalto to Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Vincent van Duysen also have their own take on the backyard pool. Here are our 20 favorite modernist pool designs, just in time for the 90-degree days of summer.
Above: A prototype for minimalist pools is seen in Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, a house built in 1929 that stood for only a year. Photograph via Mies van der Rohe Society; you can become a member of the society for $100 (or $25 if you are a student). For more information, see Membership.
Above: A minimalist lap pool at the PI Residence in Kortrijk, Belgium designed by Vincent van Duysen. Photograph by Alberto Piovano courtesy of Vincent Van Duysen.
For more of this project, see Pool of the Week: A Manmade Beach in the Portuguese Countryside.
County Wicklow, Ireland
For more of this garden, see Garden Visit: At Home with June Blake in Ireland.
For more of this project, see Swimming Pool of the Week: A Dive into a Napa Valley Landscape.
Hudson Valley, NY
For more of this project, see Architect Visit: A Natural Pool and Passive House by BarlisWedlick.
Above: At Villa Mairea, a house in Noormarkku, Finland designed by Alvar Aalto in 1940 includes a simple pool in the iconic Aalto shape. Photograph via Alvar Aalto Museo; admission to the museum in Jyväskylä, Finland is €6. For hours and more information, see Alvar Aalto Museo.
Above: A circular swimming pool built from a former livestock watering tank at architect Olle Lundberg’s redwood cabin in Cazadero, California. Photograph by Alan Owings.
New Canaan, Connecticut
Above: An elevated concrete pathway leads to a bright, circular pool at Philip Johnson’s Glass House on 49 acres in New Canaan, Connecticut. Photograph by Matthew Williams.
For more of Johnson’s house, see Glass House Landscape: A “Permanent Camping Trip” for Architect Philip Johnson.
For more, see Landscape Architect Visit: Thomas Doxiadis on Antiparos.
Above: An indoor pool in the 741-foot-tall Melbourne Tower by Elenberg Fraser. Photograph courtesy of CEL Australia, Elenberg Fraser and Pointilism.
Above: Photograph courtesy of Hans Verstuyft Architecten.
A penthouse in Antwerp, Belgium designed by Hans Verstuyft Architecten.
For more of this project, see Before & After: A Swimming Pool in the Hamptons, Inspired by Spain.
Above: Photograph by Charles Mayer courtesy of The Monacelli Press.
Above: Lacy Sophora japonica trees sit at each corner of a pool by Edmund Hollander Design, underplanted with Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii,’ spireas, and hydrangeas. For more, see Required Reading: The Good Garden by Edmund Hollander.
Above: Photograph by Gentl & Hyers.
Design pros Andrew Corrie and Harriet Maxwell Macdonald have a low-profile swimming pool to visually connect their garden to surrounding Shelter Island wetlands. See more at Garden Visit: A Design Couple’s Scenic Shelter Island Retreat.
For more of this project, see Garden Visit: Spanish Colonial-Style Made Modern in LA.
Todos Santos, Mexico
For more, see Garden Visit: A French Aesthete in Todos Santos, Mexico.
For further aquatic inspiration, see our posts:
- The Dark Mirror: A Backyard Reflecting Pool in Eastern Europe.
- Landscape Architect Visit: Bernard Trainor’s Most Beautiful Swimming Pool.
- Steal This Look: A Charleston Pool Pavilion with an Outdoor Shower.
- Summer Roundup: 12 Great Pool Houses.
Finally, get more ideas on how to integrate a swimming pool into your landscape or exterior home project with our Hardscaping 101: Swimming Pools guide.