There is so much more to a swimming pool than meets the eye. A pool at the back of your house conveys an attitude. It is a little way of satisfying that yearning for nature. A symbol of the exotic – and the erotic. Late summer last year, while sitting by the pool at Atlantis by Giardino, Rihanna used the pool as a stage, taking a selfie which she then posted on Snapchat. In it, she is wearing a purple negligee, pink baseball cap, and sunglasses. The photo was viewed by fans worldwide. The history of swimming pools is as seemingly endless as the stories about them. Although the Romans had their piscinae, it was not until the Enlightenment that pools really took off, when they were found to be useful not just for therapeutic purposes, but for keeping fit as well.
The first hotel pools started to arrive in the 1930s. One such early hotel pool carved out of real stone, can be found in Antibes on the Côte d’Azur. Most hoteliers by the sea in France or near lakes like Lago Maggiore were happy enough for the time being with the bodies of water that were already there and only started building pools in the 1960s. At first, the aim was to simply to try and cram a bit of sea into a manageable sized, rectangular space. But gradually, aesthetic concerns started to get a look-in too.
At 25 meters in length, the pool in the garden at Atlantis by Giardino is not only the biggest of all Zurich hotel pools, but it is also rather unusual. Its carefully ordered formal design contrasts with the higgledy-piggledy woods and meadow that come right up to the pool on the far side. Large boulders of Lucerne stone on the building side protrude like tongues into the water. And the design in glass mosaic tiles on the bottom of the pool looks a little like an ornate rug. Swimming lengths early in the morning or lying on the wooden sun deck by the pool in the afternoon are unforgettable experiences. One of the features you will notice as you glance around you is the fine wood pavilion of the pool bar. Outside, it picks up on the ornamentation of the bottom of the pool, while inside, it is decorated in bronze and brass colors, with special design light fixtures. No one can resist the poolside menu.
This is a pool that Ludwig II would certainly have been a fan of. This famous Bavarian king had a penchant for the unusual and often demanded to have outlandish creations made for him. His Turkish Moorish swan pond in the conservatory on the roof of the Munich Residence was a sensation worldwide – including in the USA, where it inspired wealthy families like the Vanderbilts, Astors and Whitney’s to build their own pools. This was the start of a trend in the States in the early 20th century that – as Thomas van, Leeuwen explains in his book on the history of the swimming pool (The Springboard in the Pond) – began on the East Coast, then spread to California. Los Angeles quickly became known as the “Swimming pool capital of the world”. Today, there are more pools in the USA than in the rest of the world combined, and more in Southern California than in the whole of the rest of the United States.
Pools soon started popping up in films, as directors’ eyes were opened to their potential as a backdrop for intrigues, orgies, murders, gossip and more. In La Piscine, Romy Schneider and Alain Delon become enmeshed in an SM relationship with tragic consequences. In The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman uses the pool to escape from his new-found responsibilities. And in Swimming Pool, Charlotte Rampling, as writer Sarah Morton, finds her fantasies refracted and reflected beyond her control until a murder provides her with the inspiration she needs to finish her work. Of course, stories like these are inspired by real-life pools like the pool at Atlantis by Giardino. By the 1970s, the hotel was already a mecca for stars from all over the world. For example, the band The Who. Their performance may not have been as “revealing” as that of Hollywood diva Tallulah Bankhead, but it was certainly unforgettable: they threw the furniture into the water.