Anyone who thinks Londoners prefer to play it safe may have to recant that opinion come May 19, when a pool positioned nearly 115 feet in the air opens to residents of the Embassy Gardens apartments.
Back in 2013, the EcoWorld Ballymore–developed, multiuse community in London’s Nine Elms neighborhood already boasted seemingly every luxury amenity imaginable: a rooftop sky deck with a covered dining area and a greenhouse specifically for fragrant orange trees, a stately red-walled private cinema featuring nine plush loveseats and movie-theater-style flat screen, a sprawling gym that rivals Equinox’s most coveted clubs, a high-ceilinged lounge suite with a full-service bar, a lush garden set in a calming ravine on the ground level, and a serene indoor lap pool open 24 hours a day. However, on a supremely warm summer afternoon almost a decade ago, Ballymore’s creative heads realized there was one essential amenity that the River Thames–adjacent Embassy Gardens lacked: an outdoor swimming pool that residents and their guests could enjoy on exceptionally hot days. That said, the only place big enough to house a swimming pool was the roof—and even that wasn’t quite the right size. So they decided to construct the world’s first floating pool, appropriately dubbed the “Sky Pool.”
The 82-foot-long heated oasis, which stretches across two flat roofs of the five-star hotel-like Embassy Gardens’ prominent Legacy buildings, is perhaps the world’s largest single piece of load-bearing acrylic. The structure—built in Colorado, transported to Texas, and then shipped across the Atlantic on a three-week-long journey—is completely transparent, making it appear like a rectangular glass box floating in mid-air. And part of it—46 feet, to be specific—kind of is floating in mid-air. While both ends of the basin resemble a traditional outdoor swimming pool (seamlessly filling a hollow in the ground and surrounded by a stylish patio), the central section is suspended in the sky (courtesy of its invisible steel frame).
The idea behind the floating section was twofold: First, it was the only reasonable solution that didn’t involve sacrificing the pool’s size, and, second, it allowed for swimmers to see the street and for city strollers to see the sky. Leaving this section as pared-down as possible, the architects installed steps and filtration systems on either end of the pool, leaving the middle 45 feet a minimalist’s aquatic fantasy.
In order to bring their vision to life, the developers brought on structural engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan and HAL Architects, who performed countless behavioral analyses to make sure the structure wouldn’t come crashing down—a fear any swimmer that high above ground may face. The engineers and architects landed on an eight-inch-thick acrylic frame with a nearly 12-inch-thick base that’s just shy of 10 feet deep and weighs a whopping 50 tons.
The idea behind the spectacular structure, inspired by New York City’s ultra-industrial Meatpacking District, was to push the boundaries of construction and engineering, bringing the future of design to the present. And after a year of canceled events due to the pandemic, the mesmerizing Sky Pool is about to become a reality.
Plus, night swimmers will get to enjoy sweeping views of the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and, of course, the Thames. Unfortunately for Londoners aching to take a dip in the floating Sky Pool, it’s only open to Eagle Club members, an exclusive social hub available only to Embassy Gardens residents and their guests.