First skateable pool

It was in 1939 when the first skateable swimming pool was built in Finland. Designed by world-famous architect Alvar Aalto who had no idea about skateboarding when he drew it.

The first skateable pool was designed as part of the Villa Mairea which is one of Aalto´s most known architectural works. It had been completed more than ten years before similar pools were built in California and skated by pioneers of skateboarding.

The pool has organical shape with two rounded grounds on different heights: a shallow end and a deep end, forming a kidney-like shape from the top view perspective. Such shape was something new and exclusive since all the swimming pools were rectangular before that. So how did this idea of a kidney pool came to the U.S.? It was because of Thomas Church, a landscape architect who was Aalto´s old acquaintance. Thomas borrowed the design and brought it to the United States, where the pool became the stereotypical Californian lifestyle symbol.

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How is skateboarding related to all of this?

The question has already been answered by the Finish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, and translated by TransWorld Skateboarding magazine who have also managed to skate the pool for the first time in the history:

“…In 1975, the state of California experienced an unprecedented drought. Restaurants offered water only upon request, and in some places people ate from disposable plates. Unwashed cars were a source of pride. People put bricks in their toilet water tanks so that they would use less water. Under such conditions, all the pools, including ones made in Donnell Garden fashion, were not to be filled with water. However, they soon were found by skateboarders and became their new playgrounds. The tricks invented in the 1970s in the empty swimming pools of California are still being done 40 years later, and skateparks still use those similar concrete basins—whose role model is likely to be found in Villa Mairea. Is it all because of Aalto? Were those concrete waves that skaters love copied from him?…” 

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Justus Hirvi about their mission to skate the pool for the first time:

“An article by Finland’s largest newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, in 2014 woke our interest to visit the pool without permission. We decided to try our luck with a small group and take a large risk. The property is one of the most significant protected areas in Finland. As a result, we had to plan everything very carefully. On a spring weekend, we arrived at the spot at five in the morning before sunrise, in order to guarantee that no one would be awake. There were challenges—300-kilometer distance, the previous evening’s rain, and the temperature dropped to freezing temperatures. This is what we got.” 

[From the article “You should know: The first kidney-shaped pool“, TWS, 27.9.2016]

Do you want to know more?  

– Architects perspective:

Arch Daily: AD Classics: Villa Mairea / Alvar Aalto

– Skateboarders perspective:

Transworld Skateboarding: You should Know: The First Kidney-Shaped Pool (1939)


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