Sign up to our newsletter for special deals and latest news.
If you were to dive into the history of residential swimming pools, you would surely have to surface at their origins. Swimming pools are by no means a modern invention. Sure, we have added the modern conveniences of automated cleaning systems, pool covers and hi-tech filtration systems, but we didn’t invent the concept. That distinction goes to the peoples of Mohenjo-Daro, a settlement in what would be modern-day Pakistan. Their ‘Great Bath’ was constructed around 5000 years ago from tightly packed bricks, covered in gypsum plaster and sealed with a rudimentary tar. This twelve by seven metre pool is widely acknowledged as being the genesis of swimming pools but most archaeologists admit that it was probably used more for religious reasons, water being a symbol of purification and well-being, than for recreational swimming.
For recreational purposes we have to leap forward to the time of the Greeks and Romans. As in today’s society, wealth brought with it innovation and a quest for a more luxurious lifestyle. Alongside the magnificent, opulent dwellings that were constructed in this time period, water features were omnipresent. Water played an important role in Roman culture and pools of all dimensions and depths were constructed around settlements. Water was seen as a place to bathe, socialize and conduct religious ceremonies. The Romans utilized the natural beauty of water to enhance their own personal properties by integrating them into the landscaping, much in the same way that we do today.
The Greeks built palaestras, or gymnasiums, where they would emphasise the use of physical sports such as wrestling to promote well-being and for military training. Early swimming pools have been located adjacent to such buildings. The Greek philosopher, Plato, has been credited with enforcing swimming lessons on children as part of their learning studies as early as 400BC. But it was Roman wealth and the desire to exceed one another on the social scale that led to many modern innovations. The Romans were the first to construct mammoth open-air pools, such as the 900,000 square foot behemoth they construct in AD305. It was adorned with ornate marble pillars and statues and came complete with fires in the basement below to heat the water. That wasn’t the first heated pool mind you, that was credited to the wealthy Roman Lord Gaius Maecenas in the first century BC, a patron of the arts whose name is still used in many languages to express patronage. Many wealthy lords and Emperors had recreational pools that contained live fish. In fact one of the Latin words for ‘pool’ is ‘piscina’, meaning ‘fish’. As a side note, we at Albatross Pools do not recommend sharing your swimming pool with your favourite goldfish as we are sure it will void the filter warranty!
The modern pool
Here in Australia, water, and water-based activities are part of the very fabric of society. Since the status symbol of having a swimming pool at home flashed across the silver screen in Hollywood films such as ‘Million Dollar Mermaid’, many householders realised it was an achievable dream. Unforeseen circumstances led to a take-up of people building pools in their own backyards. Prior to the 60’s and 70’s, most Australians were content to swim at local waterholes, ocean baths or rivers. Water contamination, whether through sewage outlets at popular spots such as Bondi and Coogee, or river and waterhole contamination as a consequence of wheat farmers using superphosphates in rural areas, led people to develop a need for controlled water quality.
Today Australia leads the way as a swimming pool builder, with 1.2 million private swimming pools in existence and an average of 30,000 new ones being constructed annually. That’s roughly one in four households owning a residential pool and the industry contributes 1.5 billion dollars annually to the economy. The USA as a comparison has a population of 270 million people and builds an average of 90,000 pools per year. As a great example of the cross-Tasman rivalry, New Zealand has laid claim to the highest per capita swimming pool ownership in the past with an astounding 200,000 pools with a population of 4 million!
Although some complain about the complexities of owning a pool, there can be no denying their popularity. Most real estate agencies agree that a quality swimming pool will add ten per cent to the value of a house, and that with many houses taking on quasi-resort style landscaping, a swimming pool is a must-have focal point. Designs have swayed from the old-style kidney and lagoon shaped pools to modern, rectangular and geometric designs reminiscent of the Roman days. A case of history repeating.
If you wish to pursue your dream residential swimming pool, why not contact Albatross pools today? We are happy to offer a free consultation or just swap ideas with regards to your pool project. With cutting edge design and manufacturing, landscaping ideas and automated filtration and cleaning systems, you can be diving into your own piece of family history before long.