Swimming pools come in all shapes, sizes, styles, and designs. Some are used for specific purposes, like lap pools for health and fitness, infinity pools to make a landscape architectural statement, novelty pools to express the owner's personality or interests, and naturalistic pools that blend in with the landscape.
Not counting the ancient pools of a few select kings and rulers in places like Babylon and Rome, the history of residential swimming pools pretty much began in Southern California. Starting in the mid-1930s, newsreels and magazine photos of movie stars posing by their swimming pools sparked a trend, which became more popular during the post-World War II housing boom. By 1947, there were 11,000 pools in the United States.
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Most of thee early residential swimming pools were created in the classic rectangular form, which was aesthetically pleasing and also practical. As a source of exercise, the long, straight lines of a rectilinear pool made sense for pool owners who wanted to swim laps. Reflection pools have also traditionally been rectilinear or rectangular in shape.
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Curvilinear shapes also got their start in the backyards of Hollywood's elite. In the 1930s, pool builder-to-the-stars Philip Ilsley created a round-bottomed pool frame that was filled through a hose with concrete. Stars—and later, fans who could afford the pools—loved the deviation from the standard rectilinear shapes. Photos of curvy pools with their famous curvy owners popped up in magazines, whetting the public's appetite even more for these backyard luxuries. A new kind of pool was born.
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The first kidney-shaped swimming pool was designed by landscape architect Thomas Church with landscape architect Lawrence Halprin in 1948 for the Donnell family's Midcentury Modern home in Sonoma, California. Up until that time, most swimming pools were rectilinear in shape, for a straightforward lap-swimming experience. Church's biomorphic design was photographed for many magazines, making the kidney shape a popular choice for residential swimming pools.
The focal point of the Donnell landscape design is a sculpture by Adaline Kent, which serves as an island in the center of the kidney-shaped pool.
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It's pretty obvious: a figure-8-shaped pool resembles the number 8, with round or circular shapes on the ends and a narrower area in the middle, like an hourglass. The ends of this type of pool do not have to be the exact same size—one can be larger than the other.
A group of natural figure-8-shaped pools is at Sydney's Royal National Park in Australia. The Figure Eight Pools are located in the southern portion of the park, near Burning Palms Beach. The pools form near-perfect figure 8's on the coastal rock shelf. Although the platform and pools are hazardous to visit, pictures on social media have made the destination extremely popular. The site is safest to visit during low tide, but even then, there aren't any lifeguards to make rescues or ensure safety.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
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Novelty or Custom-Shaped Swimming Pool
Pools in the shape of objects or the map of a state are novelty shapes. Obviously, these are custom designs and have personal meaning or are something the owner strongly identifies with, like an instrument (violin or guitar), shamrock, or cat. Singer Engelbert Humperdinck bought the Los Angeles home with the heart-shaped pool once owned by Jayne Mansfield, then auctioned it off on QVC.
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As the name implies, a freeform pool is organic in shape and based on curvilinear rather than geometric forms. Other names for freeforms include Oasis, Lagoon, Key West, and Pond.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
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Classic or Roman-Shaped Pools
Classic pool shapes are variations of rectangular pools, and are often called Grecian and Roman pools. Both are formal in design and based on ancient pools. A Roman-shaped swimming pool has an arch or slight curve at one or both ends of a rectangle and are also considered to be classic-shaped pools. If the arch is on one side it's a single Roman; on both, it's a double Roman.