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The Sky Pool in London and Atlas Concorde’s valuable contribution

06 February 2023

Swimming in the sky seems like a dream. But being able to swim in the clouds in London has become an exclusive reality since the world's first suspended pool opened at Embassy Gardens. The setting, as sparkling as it is luxurious, is that of Nine Elms, a high-end neighborhood along the banks of the Thames whose skyline can be observed while floating in the most visionary pool ever imagined.

Inaugurated on May 19, 2021, the Sky Pool – as it has been aptly christened – catches the attention of passersby from 25 meters above ground, suspended for 14 meters in the void between two buildings, the swimmers watching those walking on the sidewalk below as they float above them like birds. The area was already prestigious, but in 2013 the community developed by EcoWorld Ballymore in Nine Elms lamented the lack of an additional amenity to round out its collection of leisure amenities: a rooftop terrace complete with hanging citrus grove, a majestic red-walled private cinema, a gymnasium rivaling those of Equinox's most coveted clubs, a lounge suite, and a lush garden were not enough. Ballymore’s creatives realized that indeed something was missing: an outdoor pool. The only space that could accommodate it was the roof, but its size wasn’t sufficient for a pool worthy of the name. Thus was born the idea of hanging it in mid-air, developing what would become the world's first suspended pool, which was given a minimalist, transparent design to make it even more stunning.

The world's largest suspended swimming pool

The result of extensive studies and planning was the world's largest freestanding acrylic pool structure. Its achievement of instant landmark status in London owes much to its simplicity. The contribution of Atlas Concorde stone-effect porcelain tiles on the terrace floors was decisive. The suspended swimming pool has an iconic design that’s a perfect match for materials with a timeless look. However, esthetic taste, out-of-the-box ideas, and a good sense of elegance are not enough on their own to develop such a project. Equally decisive is the technical expertise that allows the Sky Pool to remain suspended in the sky. Designed to compensate for the movements of the buildings due to wind or small ground vibrations, the project reflects the efforts of EcoWorld Ballymore, a leading urban regeneration firm, architects from Arup Associates (designers of the Sydney Opera House, among others), engineers from Eckersley O'Callaghan, and designers from Reynolds, a company specializing in aquarium materials that supplied the glass panels. Floating a three-meter-deep pool capable of supporting 375 tons of water in the presence of the London Eye was not an easy challenge to take on. Accomplishing this feat required a series of endurance tests conducted at the Reynolds, Colorado, plant before being shipped across the Atlantic on a three-week voyage. It was essential to conduct a series of behavioral analyses to make sure that the structure would not give way, to counter the understandable fear of those who are aware that they are swimming in mid-air, but which, from an engineering perspective, had to be resolved at the design stage. Engineers and architects thus agreed on a 20-centimeter-thick acrylic frame with a base just over 30 centimeters thick and a pool basin three meters deep.

A true engineering challenge

To the eye, the suspended pool appears completely transparent and looks like a glass box floating in mid-air, but as simple as it may seem to first transport it across the ocean and then suspend it from the top of two buildings, the process was not at all easy. “Lifting the pool required extreme precision. There was a tolerance of just 30 centimeters for the installation of the pool in the steel frame,” one of EcoWorld Ballymore's designers explained. Once in position, the pool that had crossed the pond would become not only one of the world's most exclusive heated pools but also the largest single piece of load-bearing acrylic in existence. The idea behind the floating section solved several problems at the same time: first, it was the only solution that did not require sacrificing the size of the pool, allowing swimmers to see the road and travelers in the City to catch a glimpse of a prism of water in the middle of the sky. To maximize the visual impact of an object that is for all intents and purposes unheard of, the architects installed the filtration systems and machinery on both ends of the pool, leaving the central 14 meters free of any fixtures and fittings. Minimalist and otherworldly.

Atlas Concorde porcelain tiles, a union of beauty and functionality

To complete the union of beauty and functionality, the choice for the terrace flooring fell on Atlas Concorde stone-effect porcelain tiles, which help create a space that conveys both style and practicality. With special characteristics such as a non-slip surface, hygiene, durability, and resistance to chemicals and moisture, Atlas Concorde tiles are perfect for use on floors of this type. The design and technical reliability of the materials have thus helped make the London double rooftop a place where wellbeing becomes synonymous with safety and reliability.

Selected in a subtle shade that fully matches the surrounding urban chic style, the stone-effect porcelain surfaces were installed on a particular structure that prevents damage in the event of strong wind and on a raised floor to allow for a lightening of the load. The choice of a raised floor is an option that facilitates quick access, especially in settings where maintenance of the pool and related facilities may be important. Being part of such an ambitious project is proof of how Atlas Concorde products are able to meet the most daring design needs thanks to a range of solutions capable of responding to and anticipating trends in the world of urban furnishings. The idea behind the structure, inspired by New York's Meatpacking District, was to push the boundaries of construction and engineering, bringing the future of design into the present. Currently the latest addition to the City’s skyline, the beautiful floating pool is a mirage ready to greet Embassy Gardens residents, who can visit each other by swimming from one building to the other, the only drawback being knocking on their neighbor's door in their bathing suits and perhaps still a little wet, but certainly with a gaze full of wonder.

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