Project Case Study: River Pool

Meta Brunzema Architects
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Graduate Architecture & Urban Design

Meta Brunzema – River Pool from Pratt CSDS on Vimeo.

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“It’s a small thing, really, an odd-looking rainbow-colored circle in the Hudson, 20 feet in diameter, that you can spot from the Metro-North trains rushing by or from a plane flying overhead.” –NYTIMES

River Pool is a partly submerged wading pool placed within the flowing waters of the Hudson River. Currently, there is a prototype of the River Pool situated in the town of Beacon, New York and being used by the public at large. River Pool floats above the Hudson Riverbed, allowing water to flow through the mesh-bottomed wading pool. This also enables the River Pool to respond to the gentle rhythms of the tides of the river. River Pool is a new and unique design that dramatizes the ongoing cleaning-up efforts in the Hudson River; promoting low-impact public access for swimming, and bringing people and the aquatic environment together.

Meta hopes it will be a prototype for larger pools on the Hudson or in more urban environments.


Traditional public access beaches, such as man-made, nourished, or maintained ones and in-ground swimming pools have several impacts that the River Pool does not.

Because of its floating and permeable characteristics, it protects the delicate ecosystem of the estuary sediment from trampling and erosion by swimmers. Estuaries are home to flora and fauna that form the base of the estuary food chain. Sand, which often causes down drift erosion is also not introduced or maintained within the River Pool. The River Pool exists in an area where other riverside facilities that accompany most swimming beaches or pools—maintenance buildings, access roads, picnic areas, restrooms, etc—are not needed. However, future river pools up to 66 feet diameter (and in urban areas), as proposed, would likely negate this to some degree. At 66 feet, River Pool still requires fewer resources to build and maintain than traditional beaches or pools. Harsh cleaning and sanitizing methods are unnecessary with the River Pool and would eliminate the harmful effect they on bathers. For example, sanitizing chemicals, such as bromine and other common cleaning agents found in public pools have been known to damage human respiratory systems and cause asthma. It also eliminates the effect of these chemicals on the environment after they are flushed from the pool.


River Pool combines the experience of free river swimming and pool swimming. It mimics the natural experience of being in a river.

The design allows the pool to float up and down with the tides. The entire structure is supported by floating fiberglass seats that are tied together by rubber connectors, allowing the pool to gently adapt to the motion of the waves. The modular structure can be easily disassembled and stored on shore in the cold weather season. One-inch diameter rubber ropes extend the anchor lines and allow the pool to adapt to a three-foot tide.

River Pool is a service-providing design for local residents and tourists—the prototype at Beacon accommodates 20 swimmers.

Environmentalists, scientists, community leaders, and swimming advocates were involved throughout the entire design process. This allowed for an environment that would normally be off-limits, an estuary, to be safely accessible.

Low-Impact Materials

While the materials that make up the River Pool are not the most environmentally sustainable to create or get rid of, their use within waterways is low impact. Additionally, the River Pool uses a minimal amount of materials. Twelve modular pieces and four anchors driven into the riverbed make up the entirety of the design. The floating elements are custom molded fiberglass. The internal beam structure is high-density foam. The netting is Dyneama twine; often used in body armor vests and rock-climbing ropes. Dyneama is non-corrosive, bacteria-resistant, lightweight, and slip-resistant and fifteen times stronger than steel per unit weight. Additionally, Dyneama is low-impact because it neither leaches any harmful chemicals into the water, nor does it disrupt the ecology of the water because it does not entrap or disturb any fish or wildlife. These low-impact properties also apply to the fiberglass and foam within the pool. Fiberglass is an incredibly durable material that should not have to be replaced during the life of the pool. It is also easy to clean without the use of harsh chemicals. However, the production of fiberglass does pose health risks to workers and manufacturers. Additionally, fiberglass is not recyclable.

Low impact use:
Due to the enclosed and elevated design, River Pool eliminates trampling on the river floor by users and can be easily removed and reassembled. It requires low maintenance and very low-impact construction (4 rods in riverbed and one small foundation for an attached pier. Unlike, traditional pools, the River Pool require no need for an intrusive structure or harsh chemicals to clean it. CAROLYN – Don’t know what is used to clean it can find out from Meta unless you know. * Mention that there is non need for an intrusive structure like in traditional pools, or harsh chemicals to clean it. How is it cleaned? What do they use? See some of my comments form materials and move them down here.

Optimized Lifetime

The River Pool is designed to be durable and re-used from year to year for seasonal use. It is designed to be easily stacked and disassembled by park employees. Because the River Pool comes in separate modular sections that are easy to assemble and disassemble, it is equally as easy to replace individual sections that need repairing, rather than replacing the entire structure.


River pool text by Meta Brunzema

The Vascular Flora of Orient Beach State Park, Long Island, New York Author(s): Eric E. Lamont and Richard Stalter Source: Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Vol. 118, No. 4 (Oct. – Dec., 1991), pp. 459-468 Published by: Torrey Botanical Society Stable URL:

Impact of Trampling on Sandy Beach Macrofauna Author(s): M. D. Moffett, A. McLachlan, P. E. D. Winter, A. M. C. De Ruyck Source: Journal of Coastal Conservation, Vol. 4, No. 1 (1998), pp. 87-90 Published by: Springer Stable URL: