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The New Modernism: 20 Best Minimalist Swimming Pools

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The New Modernism: 20 Best Minimalist Swimming Pools

June 12, 2017

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.

Barcelona Pavilion

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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.

Kortrijk, Belgium

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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.

Portugal

A modern pool by Lisbon architect Manuel Aires Mateus is set in a field of wildflowers and abuts a grove of cork trees. Photograph by Nelson Garrido, courtesy of Casa No Tempo.
Above: A modern pool by Lisbon architect Manuel Aires Mateus is set in a field of wildflowers and abuts a grove of cork trees. Photograph by Nelson Garrido, courtesy of Casa No Tempo.

For more of this project, see Pool of the Week: A Manmade Beach in the Portuguese Countryside.

County Wicklow, Ireland

Irish plantswoman June Blake used to be a jeweler, so it’s perhaps no surprise that her garden, in the words of garden writer Fionnuala Fallon, “is startling in its beauty like the spilt contents of a jewelry box.” Photograph via VRBO.
Above: Irish plantswoman June Blake used to be a jeweler, so it’s perhaps no surprise that her garden, in the words of garden writer Fionnuala Fallon, “is startling in its beauty like the spilt contents of a jewelry box.” Photograph via VRBO.

For more of this garden, see Garden Visit: At Home with June Blake in Ireland.

Napa Valley

Landscape architect Scott Lewis won an American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award for the transformation of a one-acre Napa Valley property. In the process, an existing swimming pool got a facelift: it was re-plastered (with plaster that has a gray tint to make the color of the water more reflective) and the coping is limestone. Photograph by Matthew Millman courtesy of Scott Lewis.
Above: Landscape architect Scott Lewis won an American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award for the transformation of a one-acre Napa Valley property. In the process, an existing swimming pool got a facelift: it was re-plastered (with plaster that has a gray tint to make the color of the water more reflective) and the coping is limestone. Photograph by Matthew Millman courtesy of Scott Lewis.

For more of this project, see Swimming Pool of the Week: A Dive into a Napa Valley Landscape.

Hudson Valley, NY

Chemical free, a natural swimming pool is filtered entirely by plants and organic systems on a 75-acre property in the Hudson Valley. Photograph by Reto Guntli courtesy of BarlisWedlick Architects.
Above: Chemical free, a natural swimming pool is filtered entirely by plants and organic systems on a 75-acre property in the Hudson Valley. Photograph by Reto Guntli courtesy of BarlisWedlick Architects.

For more of this project, see Architect Visit: A Natural Pool and Passive House by BarlisWedlick.

Noormarkku, Finland

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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.

Riehen, Switzerland

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Above: A chlorine-free, bio-filtered pool in Riehen, Switzerland by architects Herzog & de Meuron is modeled after a natural bathing lake. Photograph courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.

Cazadero, California

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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

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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.

Antiparos, Greece

In landscape architect Thomas Doxiadis‘ version of Greece, new angles combine with ancient contours. The 40 acres of landscape and habitat he helped design on the island of Antiparos is what you would hope to find after dreaming about these islands in the Aegean Sea. Photograph by Clive Nichols.
Above: In landscape architect Thomas Doxiadis‘ version of Greece, new angles combine with ancient contours. The 40 acres of landscape and habitat he helped design on the island of Antiparos is what you would hope to find after dreaming about these islands in the Aegean Sea. Photograph by Clive Nichols.

For more, see Landscape Architect Visit: Thomas Doxiadis on Antiparos.

Melbourne

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Above: An indoor pool in the 741-foot-tall Melbourne Tower by Elenberg Fraser. Photograph courtesy of CEL Australia, Elenberg Fraser and Pointilism.

Antwerp, Belgium

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Above: Photograph courtesy of Hans Verstuyft Architecten.

A penthouse in Antwerp, Belgium designed by Hans Verstuyft Architecten.

Long Island

Architect Maria Milans del Bosch created a series of outdoor rooms—a pool area and a long veranda, shaded by airy shade sails, plus an outdoor kitchen—that flow seamlessly, indoors to out, for hot summer days in the Hamptons. Photograph by Montse Zamorano.
Above: Architect Maria Milans del Bosch created a series of outdoor rooms—a pool area and a long veranda, shaded by airy shade sails, plus an outdoor kitchen—that flow seamlessly, indoors to out, for hot summer days in the Hamptons. Photograph by Montse Zamorano.

For more of this project, see Before & After: A Swimming Pool in the Hamptons, Inspired by Spain.

Long Island

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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.

Shelter Island

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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.

Northern California

A pool with an infinity edge; Lewis sited it to take advantage of a dramatic view. Photograph by John Sutton courtesy of Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture.
Above: A pool with an infinity edge; Lewis sited it to take advantage of a dramatic view. Photograph by John Sutton courtesy of Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture.

For more, see Ask the Expert: An Insider’s Guide to Swimming Pool Design, with Scott Lewis.

Los Angeles

Next to the pool, a gravel courtyard is like a luxe mini beach in costume designer Gordana Golubovic’s luxe, secluded LA backyard. Photograph by Lauren Moore.
Above: Next to the pool, a gravel courtyard is like a luxe mini beach in costume designer Gordana Golubovic’s luxe, secluded LA backyard. Photograph by Lauren Moore.

For more of this project, see Garden Visit: Spanish Colonial-Style Made Modern in LA.

Todos Santos, Mexico

A few years ago LA-based photographer Laure Joliet’s father, Vincent Joliet, bought land in the surfing town Todos Santos on the Baja California coast. Because the property is in a flood plain, Joliet and LA-based architect Hervé Daridan positioned the house on the lot’s highest point. From its perch, the house floats like an island next to the pool. Photograph by Laure Joliet.
Above: A few years ago LA-based photographer Laure Joliet’s father, Vincent Joliet, bought land in the surfing town Todos Santos on the Baja California coast. Because the property is in a flood plain, Joliet and LA-based architect Hervé Daridan positioned the house on the lot’s highest point. From its perch, the house floats like an island next to the pool. Photograph by Laure Joliet.

For more, see Garden Visit: A French Aesthete in Todos Santos, Mexico.

Sonoma, California

In the Bay Area, “user friendly” doesn’t just refer to the latest software upgrade. It’s how Terremoto describes the Sonoma landscape it designed for a San Francisco couple who wanted a low-maintenance weekend retreat. Photograph by Caitlin Atkinson.
Above: In the Bay Area, “user friendly” doesn’t just refer to the latest software upgrade. It’s how Terremoto describes the Sonoma landscape it designed for a San Francisco couple who wanted a low-maintenance weekend retreat. Photograph by Caitlin Atkinson.

For more, see Landscape Architect Visit: Terremoto Creates Serenity in Sonoma.

For further aquatic inspiration, see our posts:

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.

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