And the only thing cooler than that, as a few enterprising developers recently discovered, is a secret pool party in a pool made out of a Dumpster on the banks of the Gowanus Canal in industrial Brooklyn.
On a rented lot that’s hidden from the street they have erected what they call a lo-fi urban country club: three connected pools housed in Dumpsters; a boccie court; some lounge chairs, grills and cabanas. On Saturday night just three dozen people got the nod to check it out, at an afterparty for the art journal Cabinet. “Please don’t forward,” the invitation read. [The fact that they have to include this makes me weep for NYC.]
“It’s amazing,” the artist Nina Katchadourian said after taking a dip in the moonlight. “It makes you wonder, as so many things in New York do, what’s behind every wall that you can’t see past.”
Bobbing in the water on a pool toy was “the last thing I expected to be doing tonight,” added Aaron Levy, a curator visiting from Philadelphia.
Since the space opened over the Fourth of July weekend, it has been host to barbecues, photo shoots and a film screening. Lectures and other events are planned for the rest of the summer, but none are open to the public, to the chagrin of the design bloggers and other cool-hunters who have been chattering about it.
The idea, said David Belt, a real estate developer and the president of Macro-Sea, the company behind the pools, was not to create an exclusive party destination but to experiment with underused space and materials, repurposing them with urban renewal in mind.
“It’s a very simple concept,” said Jocko Weyland, Macro-Sea’s project manager. “There aren’t that many places to swim in New York.” And Dumpsters “are everywhere; they’re ubiquitous.”
The concept itself is borrowed. Mr. Belt, Mr. Weyland and Alix Feinkind, Macro-Sea’s creative director, heard about it in April, when they were scouting a project in Georgia. Curtis Crowe, a musician in the Athens band Pylon, had made one.
After Mr. Weyland had a brief phone conversation with him, Macro-Sea decided to make its own. It took about a month to find a suitably out of the way yet accessible space with an agreeable owner. (The pools are insured, Mr. Belt said, and the lot, filled with junk and machinery, is protected by a chain-link fence.)
From there the project proceeded quickly and cheaply, in guerrilla fashion: the Dumpsters were donated by a construction company that suddenly had a surplus (thanks, economic downturn), the designers who helped render the plans were recruited through Craigslist, and members of the small crew that erected it in a week were unpaid.
“They just wanted to be able to use it,” Mr. Belt said.
The garbage containers, which he described as “newish,” were cleaned and lined in plastic, and a filtration system was installed, as on a regular above-ground pool. Mr. Belt’s wife, Antonia, stitched together the coverings for the cabanas; the furniture came from Ikea. The main cost was the wood for the deck and the water: about 18,000 gallons, delivered from a New Jersey aquifer for $1,200.
“I tried to do it so that even if you had to rent one, you could do a stand-alone Dumpster, a grill and chair for under $1,000,” Mr. Belt said. Copycats are welcome, because Macro-Sea itself is using the project as a template for a larger idea: turning eyesore strip malls into artsy community destinations, with Dumpster pools and other indie attractions.
“I thought if we could get people to come here and swim in a Dumpster, I could probably use the same aesthetic sensibility” to get people — and, not incidentally, better retailers — to come to a dingy strip mall, Mr. Belt said. The company hopes to open its first repurposed shopping center in Atlanta this fall, ideally with dozens of pools in the parking lot that visitors can rent for the day.
While the project is conceptually simple — get a bunch of trash containers, clean and seal them, fill with water, jump in — there were a lot of details to finesse. The coarse edges inside the containers were filed down, and underneath the liners, the bottoms were covered in sand, for soft landings. Tightly packed sandbags double as benches along the walls, and pool toys and kid-friendliness provide an intentional counterpoint to the neighborhood grit.
With brightly colored lanterns crisscrossing overhead and music piped in from an iPod connected to a boombox, the feel is of a do-it-yourself urban oasis.
“The water’s amazingly fresh, for swimming in a Dumpster,” said Alexis Bloom, a documentary filmmaker from TriBeCa, after doing a few laps. She compared it favorably to the pool at Soho House, an actual urban country club.
The problem, of course, with having such a sexy space — especially a sexy private space — is that everyone wants to come.
After Mr. Weyland gave an interview to ReadyMade, the D.I.Y. design magazine, two weeks ago, breathless coverage and links began appearing all over the blogosphere. Soon the location was decoded. One post led to people standing on the roofs of cars in a nearby lot, snapping photos, Mr. Weyland said with an eye roll.
Though they’re certainly aware that there’s nothing more tantalizing to some New Yorkers than a party to which they weren’t invited, the creators profess surprise at the level of attention their project has received. “I’m glad that people like it,” Mr. Belt said. “But it’s not the end all, be all.”
They hope that visitors will be as chill as the Cabinet magazine partygoers, who somehow resisted the temptation to text all their friends the minute they got there. “It’s so easy to ruin something,” one sighed.
The pools are supposed to be open through August or until the coolness wears off. “If it gets really crowded,” Mr. Belt said, “I’ll shut it down.”
Source, with pretty typical video of hipsters swimming in fucking dumpsters.