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Swimming Pool in Hampstead by James Gowan

[ARCHIVE] Like a glass UFO alongside Hampstead Heath, Gowan’s swimming pool is both graceful and technically striking

Originally published in March 1969

This domed swimming pool, together with a stepped, turfed pyramid, completes the landscaping of a house adjoining Hampstead Heath. The house and its garden occupy a corner site elevated above the heath and enclosed by a hedge of mature yew trees. The pool is approached from the service entrance of the house and is used by the family and nearby friends, principally children.

The actual pool is 20ft. in diameter with a 5 ft. wide surround of white Sicilian marble. The pool wall is lined with 6 in. square white glazed tiles with a wide band of blue tiles. The bottom of the pool is finished with white Sicilian marble and two bullseye rings of black negro marquinia marble. Basically the enclosure of the pool is a 30 ft. diameter drum of reinforced concrete 7 ft. 6 in. high, half sunk into the ground and enveloped by a grass bank tying it into the landscape.

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Cross section

On the top perimeter of the drum is a 3 ft. wide maintenance and rainwater channel which has an inner ring-beam carrying the tubular structure of the dome. The dome has an outer skin of 1/4 in. Georgian-wired polished plate glass, double bent to a true sphere, and retained in lead-covered steel patent glazing bars. which lap over. a circular purlin of 3 in. by 1 1/2 in. mild steel channel.

The dome is carried on a sand-blasted and zinc-sprayed steel structure of sixteen 3 in. diameter hollow steel tubes, which change to 1 3/4 in. by 1 3/4 in. solild mild-steel section at the connections with the 3 in. by 1 in. baseplates and the 18 in. diameter apex ring. This houses an extractor fan, supports an external steel ring for ladders, and is capped with a fibreglass dome.

Off the entrance lobby there is a 6 ft. diameter changing-room fitted with a standard shower-tray in a marble lining, with stainless steel splash guards. The curtain track is square stainless steel tube and the high level shelf is in plate glass on chromium plated brackets. This compartment and the WC are lit by a standard domelight below which is an opal glass laylight.

In the case of the shower, this is fitted with an extractor fan. The entrance lobby has a small handbasin with a circular chromium-plated mirror above mounted on a ball joint. On the opposite wall at low level is a 2 tt. 6 in. square steel door which drops into the plant-room. This is louvred to pass return heated air and incorporates a shelf for the telephone.

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Section cut through pool showing tiling and marble setting out

The main enclosure of the pool is lined with 6 in. by 6in. white glazed wall-tiles with two wide bands of blue and a narrow band of red tiles in the centre, which lines through with the outside ground level. These bands of tiling run round all the walls, the tiles reducing to a 2 in. width for the smaller radius of the shower and 1 in. width for the w.c. The water for the pool is heated by a heat exchanger from the boiler room in the house, and cleaned by surface skimmers and vacuum tools operated by the filtration gear in the plant-room.

Space heating is by warm air ducted below the surround to high level grilles. The heater battery incorporates air filters and an electric booster for extreme temperatures. The marble fioor is electrically heated throughout. The electrical installations are controlled from the lobby by low voltage switches operating relays. The dome is lit at night by a continuous cove of short tungsten tubes controlled in four banks, the pool by two submerged fittings and the surround and entrance area by ceiling inset fittings. The shower and w.c. have baste tungsten lighting in the interspace of the dome light and laylight.

Swimming Pool in Hampstead

Architect: James Gowan

Photographs: James Gowan

Assistant Architect: Andrew Rabenek

Structural Engineer: Frank Newby (Felix J. Samuely & Partners)

Quantity surveyors: Monk & Dunstone

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