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  3. Landscape Architecture
  4. Portugal
  5. Álvaro Siza Vieira
  6. 1966
  7. AD Classics: AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza

AD Classics: AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza

AD Classics: AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza
AD Classics: AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza

AD Classics: AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza AD Classics: AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza AD Classics: AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza AD Classics: AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza +18

  • Location

    Leça de Palmeira, Portugal
  • Architect

    Alvaro Siza
  • References

    Galinsky, Architecture Projects
  • Project Year

    1966

Since its completion in 1966 the Leça Swimming Pool complex, by Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza, has been an internationally recognized building. Still almost half a century later, it has gracefully retained its architectural integrity and remained a popular retreat. The Leça Swimming Pools has established itself as one of Siza’s greatest early works, and as an example of his careful reconciliation between nature and his design.

The Leça Swimming Pools were one of Alvaro Siza’s first solo projects. After graduating from the University of Porto in 1955, he worked briefly with architect Fernando Tavora before setting up a studio as an independent architect. He is still practicing and has received various awards and accolades for his work, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1992.

The Leça de Palmeira beaches are on the northern coastline of Matosinhos, a small town to the north of Porto, as well as Siza’s birthplace. It is also the site of another early work of Siza’s, the Boa Nova Tea House. 

Both the Leça Swimming Pools and the Boa Nova Tea House were constructed and completed around the same time in the mid 1960s. They both use concrete and have a similar respect for the natural rocky coastline near Siza's home.

The Leça Swimming Pool complex consists of changing rooms, a café and two swimming pools, one for adults and one for children. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the access road that follows the coastline, but positioned almost completely out of sight.  By sinking the building behind the road Siza promotes a disconnect between his pools and the infrastructure of the city.  He is also considerate of the ocean views from the roadway. 

Siza was careful to preserve a large portion of the existing rock formations when planning his modern interventions into the landscape. The pools he created reach out into the ocean and blend easily with the natural pool formations along the coast of the Atlantic.

Visitors to the Leça Swimming Pools enter down a smooth concrete ramp parallel to the road. As they walk towards the corridors to shower stalls and changing rooms, the rough concrete walls begin to obscure the views of both the traffic behind and the ocean ahead. With no views, the ocean beyond becomes audible and the transition between roadway and ocean is captured in an sensory experience within the building.

Visitors exit the changing rooms onto a series of platforms. Looking back, a previously unseen view of the building emerges now below the street level. The straight walls hold their own against the surrounding stone and the building acts as an attractive barrier from the road above. The color of the concrete walls is a shade lighter than that of the natural stone, and this view of the juxtaposed materials demonstrates Siza’s appreciation of the natural setting with his restraint to avoid imitation.

Turned back towards the ocean, water again becomes the dominant view and the swimming pools are able to nestle themselves between the vast open ocean and the pool complex. The children’s pool is bound on one edge by a curving concrete wall, a bridge and large rocks on another. It is located further inland whereas the adult swimming pool seems to be set inside the Atlantic Ocean. 

The adult swimming pool is made with low concrete walls and natural rock formations are spread along its edges.  From almost every angle the water levels of both the pool and the adjacent ocean appear to be equal, visually connecting Siza's pool with the vast Atlantic Ocean.

This intentional blurring of the ocean’s edge not only enhances the swimmer’s feelings of the expanse, but also blurs their understanding of this man made limit.  In the Leça Swimming Pools, Siza demonstrates a connection with the natural while maintaining its individuality as a modern construction.  The pools have been recognized as an important moment in architecture because of Siza's incredible tact in reconciling his own design with the principles of the changing ocean tide.

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Sofia Balters. "AD Classics: AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza" 06 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/150272/ad-classics-leca-swimming-pools-alvaro-siza/>
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56 Comments

Kts Tkk · July 26, 2013

good idea

MIke · January 04, 2013

Why would anyone build open swimming pool 10 meters from the natural beach?

seb · June 27, 2013 06:38 AM

there are days when the sea is not as friendly as a pool...... and if u defy that u can end up dead.
If u don't know what i mean then i bet u live near some nice calm beachs!or just retarded

Neda Al-Khalaf · July 05, 2012

Leca swimming pools

Peter Rukavina · June 24, 2012

@andrerib it really is one of the most special places; while you&#39re there, go swimming in the Siza pool too: http://t.co/UrH5cmfF

??????? · April 25, 2012

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Pools Sydney · April 19, 2012

Sydney Pools and Spas were founded by Ilija and Maryanne in 1990 and have grown into a reputable family owned and operated company which is committed to providing a quality service with over 35 years experience and knowledge.

Jordi Noguera · April 05, 2012

AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza http://t.co/kExuRhKw vía @archdaily

Anna Wojciechowska · March 27, 2012

&#39Abuilding should be "of" not "on" a hill&#39 Just like Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza | ArchDaily http://t.co/00POKK5U via @archdaily

ppriolo · January 15, 2012

@ArchDaily Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza (1966). http://t.co/VwUBLBZk

Jeongwan Koo(???) · October 19, 2011

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Rouissi Karim · October 01, 2011

Grand classique : Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza http://t.co/a6ASsTKQ

Stefano Passamonti · August 26, 2011

Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza | http://t.co/Xpozjqs

Paloma Ruiz · August 12, 2011

Han visto las Albercas Leça de Alvaro Siza? Quiero! http://t.co/269G2sk

giovanni sidari · August 11, 2011

An homage to summer, courtesy of Alvaro Siza: http://t.co/wbs7CN7 via @archdaily

Migue Mollá · August 10, 2011

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Nicholas Patten · August 10, 2011

AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools. http://bit.ly/rpB1zm

herta manenti · August 10, 2011

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mtt2111 · August 09, 2011

Just ...... amazingly sensitive.

Hakan Tuzun Sengun · August 09, 2011

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Mark Gardner · August 08, 2011

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Koldo Fdz. Gaztelu · August 08, 2011

Las piscinas de las mareas 1966, http://t.co/hPkiMum

André Amaral · August 08, 2011

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Rajan Reddy · August 08, 2011

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TheVisualSpot · August 08, 2011

This Alvaro Siza project really stands for what I&#39ve said in my previous post. http://t.co/gQjawtN

Darwin Mendoza · August 08, 2011

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AIA Europe · August 08, 2011

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Marc López Gastaldo · August 08, 2011

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Tim Groot · August 08, 2011

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nortis · August 07, 2011

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alechs · August 07, 2011

You'll never find anything like this built today. Contemporary landscape architecture is too often reliant on technical wizardry and simply doesn't have any resonance as a place. No one has the guts to form concrete against rugged rock outcrop simply for soulful, poetic gesture. This is why Siza is boss.

paul schütze · August 07, 2011

#landscape: perfectly integrated into the site these pools are discrete, timeless and formaly beautifull: http://j.mp/pNw35Z

Majd Nazo · August 07, 2011

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David Storm · August 07, 2011

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Neil Frost · August 07, 2011

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Sergio Ahumada Monca · August 07, 2011

Un proyecto bellísimo, arquitectura pura http://bit.ly/qGGlgO

mintshung · August 07, 2011

one of the classics i love very much RT @ArchDaily AD Classics: Leça Swimming Pools / Alvaro Siza http://t.co/HmNWach #architecture

up_today_arch · August 07, 2011

old good architecture... the real mastership.

Hi-iD · August 07, 2011

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Ramon Cardona · August 07, 2011

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John Cox · August 07, 2011

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him + her · August 07, 2011

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Archifront · August 07, 2011

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GR2TF · August 07, 2011

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arch_related · August 07, 2011

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Architecture Network · August 07, 2011

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Bocetos Digitales · August 07, 2011

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