Photo: Allan Pollok-Morris. Courtesy Jupiter Artland

Public art

In pictures: Escape the heat with this Joana Vasconcelos-designed pool

Public can take a dip in the intricate Gateway pool at Jupiter Artland park in Edinburgh

In the current heatwave, visitors to the Jupiter Artland contemporary sculpture park in Edinburgh can cool down by dipping themselves in a totally immersive work of art: a fully functioning circular swimming pool created by the Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. The public art piece, entitled Gateway, was more than three years in the making, bringing together architects and engineers across Portugal and Scotland. The cost of the ambitious project is undisclosed.

The pristine pool is nine metres in diameter with a maximum depth of 2.15 metres (just big enough for swimmers to make circular laps). Vasconcelos’s creation has a spiritual dimension also, sitting on a series of earthly leylines—geometric alignments connecting spiritual sites—that apparently intersect at Bonnington House, the Jacobean manor house on site. Dotted around the base are twelve radial stones engraved with 12 zodiac symbols which bathers can study close-up gliding along the bottom.
Photo: © Allan Pollok-Morris. Courtesy of Jupiter Artland

The pristine pool is nine metres in diameter with a maximum depth of 2.15 metres (just big enough for swimmers to make circular laps). Vasconcelos’s creation has a spiritual dimension too, sitting on a series of earthly leylines—geometric alignments connecting spiritual sites—that apparently intersect at Bonnington House, the Jacobean manor house on site. Dotted around the base are twelve radial stones engraved with 12 zodiac symbols which bathers can study close-up by gliding along the bottom.

The pool is a feat of engineering, comprising 11,366 hand-painted and glazed tiles produced at the 170-year-old Viúva Lamego tile factory in Sintra, Portugal.  Vasconcelos’s architecture team developed the designs, working closely with the Viúva Lamego artisans.  “The most challenging part of the work was, in fact, the adaptation of the flat, two-dimensional drawing into the three-dimensionality of the project, as well as the on-site construction of the most perfect circular shape itself,” Vasconcelos tells The Art Newspaper.  “For this adaptation, the architecture team made approximately 500 drawings of different scales. To help Viúva Lamego factory in the production and to better control each tile, they produced 461 painting boards (drawings) of all elements: border, pool wall, bottom and splashes, on scale 1/2. The total design process lasted approximately three years, [encompassing] concept design and technical assistance,” she says.
Photo: © Allan Pollok-Morris. Courtesy of Jupiter Artland

The pool is a feat of engineering, comprising 11,366 hand-painted and glazed tiles produced at the 170-year-old Viúva Lamego tile factory in Sintra, Portugal. Vasconcelos’s architecture team developed the designs, working closely with the Viúva Lamego artisans. “The most challenging part of the work was, in fact, the adaptation of the flat, two-dimensional drawing into the three-dimensionality of the project, as well as the on-site construction of the most perfect circular shape itself,” Vasconcelos tells The Art Newspaper. “For this adaptation, the architecture team made approximately 500 drawings of different scales. To help Viúva Lamego factory in the production and to better control each tile, they produced 461 painting boards (drawings) of all elements: border, pool wall, bottom and splashes, on scale 1/2. The total design process lasted approximately three years, [encompassing] concept design and technical assistance,” she says.

Asked if it is important that the work is publicly accessible, Vasconcelos says: “I work to provide emotions and, thus, it's important for me that people are able to fully engage with the works. I'm overwhelmed that the bathing sessions provided by Jupiter Artland have already completely sold out!” The public swimming sessions run from 29 July to 22 August (tickets cost £5.00, and must be bought in addition to a general admission ticket which costs £8.10 online for adults).
Photo: © Allan Pollok-Morris. Courtesy of Jupiter Artland

Asked if it is important that the work is publicly accessible, Vasconcelos says: “I work to provide emotions and, thus, it's important for me that people are able to fully engage with the works. I'm overwhelmed that the bathing sessions provided by Jupiter Artland have already completely sold out!” The public swimming sessions run from 29 July to 22 August (tickets cost £5.00, and must be bought in addition to a general admission ticket which costs £8.10 online for adults).

Vasconcelos’s piece joins other artist-designed swimming pools such as James Turrell’s Heavy Water, unveiled at the Confort Moderne, a French contemporary art centre in Poitiers, France, in 1991. As part of the installation, participants had to dive under water to reach a platform where the sky could be seen. In 1988, David Hockney made a mural for the bottom of the Roosevelt Hotel pool in Los Angeles.   Vasconcelos has meanwhile other major projects lined up in the UK. “I'm going to be mighty busy [there] next year! We are preparing a large indoor and outdoor solo exhibition for Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and will be unveiling a monumental outdoor project we've been working on for the past three years for Waddesdon Manor [in Buckinghamshire],” she says.
Photo: © Allan Pollok-Morris. Courtesy of Jupiter Artland

Vasconcelos’s piece joins other artist-designed swimming pools such as James Turrell’s Heavy Water, unveiled at the Confort Moderne, a French contemporary art centre in Poitiers, France, in 1991. As part of the installation, participants had to dive under water to reach a platform where the sky could be seen. In 1988, David Hockney made a mural for the bottom of the Roosevelt Hotel pool in Los Angeles. Vasconcelos has other major projects lined up in the UK. “I'm going to be mighty busy [there] next year! We are preparing a large indoor and outdoor solo exhibition for Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and will be unveiling a monumental outdoor project we've been working on for the past three years for Waddesdon Manor [in Buckinghamshire],” she says.