Wentworth Institute of Technology



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    The weight of water

    Michael Bellefeuille
    Mar 4, '06 5:54 PM EST

    I just finished my first project of the semester, a pool pavilion in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. It was a shorter project intended to be a precursor to the upcoming much larger natatorium project that we're just beginning work on for the same site. I approached the project initially with the idea of "weightlessness," as experienced in water, in mind, but quickly moved on to something else.

    The program called only for an olympic size competitive swimming pool, diving pool and the accompanying support spaces. I remembered something I reaad in "A Pattern Language" about access to water, however, and after reading it over again decided to add more of a communal purpose to the facility in the tradition of communal swimming/bathing spaces that existed in any urban area prior to recent centuries when water has been diverted, covered up, filled in and pushed away. In addition to this, I wanted to reinterpret what I consider to be the natural progression to a body of water, including making the spaces of the complex seem to be outdoors by only partially enclosing them and allowing trees to grow through them. Instead of a roof, a series of slats covers the spaces and wraps around them, punctured by trees in certain areas.

    I also wanted to frame views of the surrounding area, especially the pond and forest in Olmstead Park just across the Jamaicaway. My hope was that in framing views specific to certain areas of the complex, the memory of the view would become the memory of being in a certain area/space (whether it be the hot tob, the staircase, the sauna....). In this way the view would frame the experience.

    Finally, the entire layout of the complex was defined by the line of South Huntington Ave, which is the main entrance to the facility and is abutted by the long thing wall, existing trees in the middle of the site that I wanted to preserve, and the various lines of sight used to frame an experience in different areas of the complex.

    It was just a short project and not quite as developed or well represented graphically as I'd like it to be, but I am pretty happy with the result, which I hope to build on for the upcoming project.

    Here are a few images and a statement about it:

    the jamaica plain natatorium is designed to respond to the environmental factors of sun, wind, light and heat, as well as the surrouding natural and manmade environment, especially through the use of views to frame an experience. each specific area of the natatorium is designed to take advantage of a specific view either of something within the facility or in the larger community, thereby creating a sense of place and experience based on the views seen at and recalled after each visit. in addition, the exterior of the facilities located along south huntington is a heavy wall to restore the urban wall condition that begins to disappear at the site, and then punctuated by various openings into the spaces to frame views from the outside as well. finally, the natatorium interacts with its site, environmental conditions and the pool itself in a “natural” way. every aspect of the project is designed as a metaphor for what already occurs in nature, whether it be the slatted open roof for the sky and tree canopies, or the downhill, ritualistic approach to the water's edge. in this way the jamaica plain natatorium becomes almost “natural” without becoming false or a mere imitation.


    section with the main pool to the right and the bridge connecting the facility and neighborhood to the park on the opposite side of the property

    the complex in the larger digital site model

    looking at the locker rooms, sauna and hot tub area, as well as the existing trees left between the upper and lower levels, from the bridge

    looking out from behind the bench dividing the hot tub area from the outdoor area overlooking the pools

    looking through the glass wall of the passage to the sauna at the single tree in the small garden visible only from this space


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      An interesting project and a nice plan - but the 3D images are a bit too raw for my liking - the axon of the complex in context is a bit odd I think.

      Just some thoughts!

      Mar 5, 06 6:08 am

      i actually think that your 3d models would look good and describe the project itself well (i agree that you've given short shrift to the context) if you turn off some of the distracting textures. sketchup, right?

      toggle to a line drawing, leaving shadows on, and see if it isn't more clear what's going on. or keep some textures (the water/reflection is helpful) and get rid of others (the ground material and the brown). or maybe make them solid colors instead of textured.

      sometimes the program's tiling of material images works against you.

      Mar 5, 06 8:34 am

      that's actually the same thing I was told in the crit with regard to the graphic representation, and I definitely agree. the model was done with VectorWorks and I didn't give myself enough time to fix or really define the textures, so I think you're right.. leaving them lines or shaded but with no texture/materiality would have made it quite a bit clearer.

      Mar 5, 06 5:21 pm

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