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Urban Valley Public Swimming Pool by DJ Arquitectura, Lobres, Spain

Emerging Architecture Awards 2010: Highly Commended

A municipal swimming pool in the small Andalusian town of Lobres gets a surreal twist with a seductive inner realm clad in bright green Astroturf, the project is a genuinely artificial landscape, playing deftly on the ambiguity between the natural and manmade. The building becomes a kind of artificial valley that takes advantage of the sloping site topography to avoid excavating the rocky ground. Clinging to this geological mannequin is an artificial grass suit embroidered with real vegetation, exploring the idea of the swimming pool as a nugget of sybaritic softness implanted within the hard urban milieu, like the lush, water filled courtyards of historic Moorish architecture.

Enclosed by a series of rough, whitewashed walls, the volumes around and under the open air pool are put to practical use as changing rooms, service areas and a kiosk. The transition from street to pool is a trajectory through these dark, subterranean spaces illuminated by bubble-like roof lights, to the bright, al fresco pool cradled by the green lined walls. Recyclable and easy to maintain, Astroturf creates an easily sustainable illusion of luxuriance in the searing Andalusian heat. Its manufactured homogeneity is also broken up by grafts of tropical vegetation. Climbing honeysuckles suffuse the building with their smell, while clumps of winter cherry and fountain trees add seasonal variety to this urban oasis. Over the pool itself, shade is provided by a squiggly cloud of white canvas threaded through with tensile wires. This moves and sways with the wind, like washing on a line, casting changing shadows across the green sward.

Architect DJ Arquitectura, Granada, Spain
Project team Juana Sánchez Gómez, Diego Jiménez López, Ángela Sáez
Photography Jesus Granada

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