As part of ArchDaily's coverage of the 2016 Venice Biennale, we are presenting a series of articles written by the curators of the exhibitions and installations on show.
As an architectural device the pool represents a physical edge but it also expresses a social and personal frontier. This is explored through the narratives broadcast in the exhibition space for which we have selected eight storytellers: Olympians Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe; authors Anna Funder and Christos Tsiolkas; musician Paul Kelly; environmentalist Tim Flannery; fashion designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales from Romance Was Born; and Indigenous art curator Hetti Perkins. Their interviews reveal stories of fulfillment and accomplishment, of segregation and inclusion, of learning from the past and reflecting for the future, all through the lens of the pool.
“As access to a public pool in the post-WWII decades came to be regarded as a right and not just a luxury, their potential as sites of safe swimming but also generators of social capital became the subject of parliamentary debate.”
- Hannah Lewi, from ‘More than just a hole in the ground’, in Celebration: The 22nd Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia
A setting for life
Mysterious and familiar, tame and wild, natural and man-made, a pool is where the communal and the personal intersect. The pool is a vital force in Australian life, not only as the setting for formative childhood memories, family gatherings and community events but also as the stage for sporting feats that fuel the nation’s pride. A backdrop to the good times, the pool is also a deeply contested space in Australian history, a space that has highlighted racial discrimination and social disadvantage.
Architecture, culture and identity
The Pool uncovers a vast commentary about Australia and our values as Australians, and explores how this intersects with our architecture. Few spaces can represent so simply and wholly the identity and passions of a nation and inspire such a complex narrative. By celebrating the cultural signifcance of pools in Australia, we seek the critical engagement of architects in a broader public debate about the civic and social value of the spaces we create.
For all their immediate appeal, pools in many communities in Australia are facing signi cant challenges as social institutions. High maintenance costs and labour-intensive operations mean that the pool does not resist the scrutiny of economic rationalism. Improving the economic model of a pool is certainly an issue worth addressing, however the social capital of the pool needs equal consideration in this equation: it is more than a place to swim, it is a place for people to gather and share experiences, highlighting signi cant community value.
Architecture for the many
The stories of The Pool are unapologetically personal, subjective and anecdotal. They are a selection of many possible narratives that acknowledge the breadth of our audience and of our contributors. Using The Pool as a platform for the sharing of stories, we have created a space for discussion that is accessible to all. A place where we can all participate, observe and learn.