Aqua Foro Pool Club Design Process

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A surrealist dreamscape comes to life at The Aqua Foro Pool Club, located at the Piazza Alta Apartments in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. The Lighting Practice applied lighting elements influenced by the surrealist art movement to the pool’s architectural features, which were envisioned by DISGSAU and inspired by ancient antiquities.

The surrealist art movement emerged in Europe, encompassing the human experience in uncanny, dreamlike scenes. The lighting design needed to emphasize the surrealistic shapes of the arches’ architectural structures.

“With arches, curves, and curving elements being common in surreal paintings, we felt that Aqua Foro wanted to be illuminated as a surreal dreamscape,” explains Eve Quellman, lighting designer at The Lighting Practice.

Surrealism artists such as Salvidor Dali and De Chirico, and iconic Italian and Greek architectural structures, influenced the initial stage of the lighting design. Eve’s immediate lighting inspiration was drawn from Palazzo della Civilta Italiano and how it was illuminated in the film La Dolce Vita.

Not only did surrealism inspire the design, but so did ancient architectural antiquities. “Foro”, referring to the Roman Forum, and other ancient architectural sites, like the Ruins of Basilica Julia were structures the design team referenced while curating their design concept. The pool club’s rooftop location parallels The Acropolis, which is perched and illuminated above Athens and influences the design.

Eve’s ideation process starts with searching for imagery to stimulate the imagination and explore concepts.

“These new ideas and concepts generated from the imagery search provided another layer to the overall architectural concept. This way we weren’t only lighting the architects’ work, we were providing them with a design,” expresses Eve.

Design Process:

With the surrealist landscape conceptualized, the lighting solutions had to tell the story. The design team focused on establishing a visual hierarchy, illuminating entry points, and highlighting the soft curves of the space.

Hand sketching was deemed the best way to explore ideas and provide a visual roadmap, allowing for more effective communication of abstract concepts.

“Sketching provided the freedom to detach from an idea that may not have been the best approach,” says Eve.

With ideas flowing on the paper, the design team turned the hand sketches into greyscale computer renderings, providing a cleaner design conceptualization.

“Using computer visualization programs to render ideas in greyscale, finding that the computer renderings were very true to what was eventually realized,” explains Eve.

Ultimately, the designers utilized a combination of techniques, making the lighting scheme seamlessly integrate with the architectural elements of the pool deck.

Completed Project:

The Aqua Foro Pool Club is a beacon of relaxation and luxury at the Piazza Alta, serving as a lit architectural beacon, evoking a moment of serenity nestled in the hustle and bustle of city life. The Lighting Practice team embarked on a mission to create a luminous environment that combines inspiration from classical architectural antiquities and the surrealist art movement.

Arched leisure cabanas, reminiscent of ancient ruins, are brought to life with in-grade up-lighting, casting soft glows that accentuate their curves and provide visual comfort. Intimate seating areas and landscape features are bathed in warm illumination, creating pockets of tranquility amid the hardscape environment.

Strategic placement of landscape accent lights fosters serenity and provides functional pathway lighting. Resulting in an architectural marvel, that meticulously captures the designers’ intent of serenity, and grabs the attention of Philadelphians.

While considering the landscape elements, the designers chose to uplight the trees to add more vertical illumination and contribute to the purposeful layering of light. The lily pad walkway leading to the in-pool fire pit seating area is illuminated by encapsulated tape light and pool submersible fixtures.

Exploring the design process alongside Eve offers a captivating glimpse into the creative minds of lighting designers. Unveiling the meticulous process behind Aqua Foro Pool Club’s inception provides an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how a concept evolves into a dreamlike pool club.

Project Partners:

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Halkin Mason Photography

Original Architectural renderings courtesy of DIGSAU.