Rendering of + POOL. Designed by PlayLab & Family. Image courtesy Friends of + POOL.

Rendering of + POOL. Designed by PlayLab & Family. Image courtesy Friends of + POOL.

Oana Stanescu, one of the 4 architects behind an audacious plan to engineer a public, water-purifying swimming pool to float in New York City’s East River, is poised to spend 10 years of her career working on this project. But she describes its origins as a happy accident. “People just reacted to it.” She says, “There were so many positive comments and feedback, we thought we owed it to people.”

What Stanescu says started as a “silly” “doodle” posted online is now on its way to becoming very real. Stanescu and her collaborators have created a nonprofit and raised almost $1 million. They learned how to test and clean river water. They’ve won the support of State Senator Daniel Squadron, High Line cofounder Joshua David, New Museum Deputy Director Karen Wong and many more.

Oana Stanescu. Credit: © Brigitte Lacombe

Oana Stanescu. Credit: © Brigitte Lacombe

The project started in 2010, when Stanescu, Dong-Ping Wong, Jeff Franklin and Archie Lee Coates circulated a design for a plus-shaped, Olympic-size swimming pool to float on and clean water from the East River. Their concept was to make a filtration system that would remove bacteria, contaminants and odors to make water swimmable and pump over 500,000 gallons of clean water back into the river daily. Within a year, a small Kickstarter campaign raised a little over $40,000 to put towards the project. Developers started reaching out about building it, but weren’t interested in the full depth of the vision.

Stanescu says, “They just wanted a plus-shaped pool as an amenity for their condos. We had no interest in that. But responding to that made us think about what’s important to us.”