‘Knight Cities’ podcast: Pop-up Pool Project adds a splash of cool in Philly

Knight Cities podcast

It’s summer, and who doesn’t like to hang out at the pool? 

In most American cities, that used to mean heading down to the neighborhood pool where you found familiar faces and lots of strangers.  In fact, prior to 1940, private swimming pools were almost exclusively the province of the extremely wealthy. In 1950, the U.S. had only 2,500 private, in-ground pools. But by 2009, there were 5.2 million private pools in the nation.

Ben Bryant is a self-professed fan of Philadelphia’s public pools, and he is determined to make them, once again, convivial places for people to hang out and enjoy the company of neighbors and friends. Ben, who is with Group Melvin Design, is a winner of this year’s Knight Cities Challenge with his Pop-up Pool Project.

Here are five things you should know from my conversation with Ben:

1.    Getting people to use public space builds a constituency for better public space and for community life.

2.    Tactical urbanism and pop-up strategies attract more people to public space and get people excited about new ways to use public space.  They put improvements on the ground that allow people to test them cheaply, quickly and with big impact.

3.    While many tactical urbanism and pop-up projects are regional draws, Pop-up Pools are meant to attract people from the neighborhood.

4.     As amazing a resource as public pools are, they fly under the radar.  They are viewed as serving a limited function for kids who have no other place to go. They are viewed as facilities rather than great civic spaces. 

5.    We need to reimagine our definition of public pools. They can and should be key destinations where people of all ages and incomes go.

Listen to my conversation with Ben here. And sign up for the “Knight Cities” newsletter to get alerts as soon as new conversations are posted.

Look for new “Knight Cities” content posted every week. You can follow us on Twitter at #knightcities or @knightfdn. And if you have ideas for people you’d like to hear from, please email me.

Carol Coletta is vice president of community and national initiatives at Knight Foundation. Follow her on Twitter @ccoletta.