1966 Leça Swimming Pools

| October 5, 2011 | 4 Comments

Leça Swimming Pools
Avenida da Liberdade
Leça da Palmeira

Alvaro Siza 1966


The project is situated along the coastal avenue, the mass of the building set below the road level to allow an uninterrupted view to the sea. The program includes two swimming pools, changing facilities and a cafe.

Because of the need to limit construction costs and to preserve the landscape, the project had to make a minimal intrusion into the existing terrain. Since a topographical survey was not available at the time, the architect spent days marking the location of the existing rock formations, to arrive at a design which would require the least blasting.
The large adults’ pool is bound by low concrete walls that extend into the sea and are complemented on three sides by the natural rock formations. The continuity of these walls with the existing topography and the level of the water in the pool which appears to be contiguous with the sea, create the illusion of a seamless transition between the man-made and natural. The children’s pool, further inland, is enclosed by a curvilinear wall on one side and sheltered from the rest of the site by massive rocks and a concrete bridge at its entrance. In a playful gesture, this bridge is set just low enough to discourage adults from passing under it.

The access to the swimming pools is by way of a pedestrian ramp, which leads down from the coastal highway. The visitor descends gradually, simultaneously losing sight of the horizon, into a maze of concrete walls, platforms and canopies of the shower stalls and changing facilities building. After passing through its long corridors, partially screened by the cabinet partitions, a path along a high wall leads back into the Atlantic light, but the water still remains hidden from view. A subtle play on the senses, this element seems to slice the landscape in two, leaving only sky visible above and the sea audible beyond. The composition of these elements as building proper is understood only from the perspective of the swimming pools, since from the road they appear as an abstract figure, a series of carvings into the landscape.

Many of the materials of the swimming complex had already been used by Siza at Boa Nova and in other early projects, but here they achieve an unusual level of homogeneity: the rough concrete, of a slightly cooler hue than the rock formations, smooth and washable concrete panels for the pavement, Riga wood carpentry, and green copper roofs, which seen from the coastal avenue attain a color similar to the pools.

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Category: 1996 Leça Swimming Pools, Projects

Comments (4)

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  1. payday loans online says:

    This seems nice.. I would like to go there!!!

  2. Chloe Tait says:

    What an amazing design. The detailed knowledge of the existing site conditions, as well as the the sensory elements that make this landscape special have really been captured and enhanced in this design. The use of materials also supports this, and the experience if guided by the architect.

  3. Saber says:


  4. Cindy says:

    I am very intrigued by this design, especially the winding experience created by the program design. One thing that confuses me about this article is how the adult pool is described as having continuity with the existing topography and creating a seamless transition to the sea. The orthagonal concrete walls seem like they would contrast the rock formations if anything…although, unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of experiencing this site for myself.

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