In the introduction, author Thomas A.P. van Leeuwen, Professor of Architectural History and
Criticism at the University of Leyden in the Netherlands, begins:
"The Springboard in the Pond is a reflective history of the
origin and the evolution of the private swimming pool as a building
Charles Sprawson's 1992 Haunts of the Black Masseur
wonderfully dove into the depths of the history of the culture of
swimming primarily through literature. Springboard takes the
subject and examines the social, religious, artistic, sexual,
psychological, technical and, most importantly, architectural
aspects of swimming in a pool and thereby exploring man's
relationship to the very water itself.
Frogs, swans and penguins are used metaphorically to illustrate
man's three basic attitudes toward water: the hydrophilic, the
hydro-opportunistic and the hydrophobic. Hydrophilic/ Frogs: those
who would rather be in the water. Hydro-opportunistic/ Swans: those
who prefer to be dry but get wet when necessary. Finally,
Hydrophobic/ Penguins: those who do all they can to avoid water yet
when feeling obligated due to a social, moral or medical situation
find themselves 'forced' to take to the waters.
Philosophy aside, the actual history narrative of the book is well
researched and masterfully weaves together the 'facts' and
'feelings.' The origins of the first public floating bathing pools
leading to actual swimming floating pools initially on rivers in
central Europe is an interesting look as to necessity leading to
The chapter on swimming pools and Hollywood is filled with
anecdotal stories relating to the film industry and movies stars
themselves is presented in such a manner you might think the author
had a private tour of town with Burt Lancaster's character from the
movie 'The Swimmer' originally written by John Cheever.
From grandiose private estates such as the Roman- and
Greek-inspired pools at the Hearst Castle** on the California
coast; to the boom of the backyard pool in suburbia America; to
pools that are built with specific purposes such as lap pools,
diving pools, rehabilitation pools, reflective pools, wading pools
and a photo of perhaps the world's first wave pool (Dresden pre
1912), Springboard delivers on informing the reader while
allowing the 'experience' of what is presented to really sink
Springboard is richly illustrated with approximately 200
black & white photographs, prints, paintings and even vintage
plans for pools. An insert of more than 25 color images is almost
superfluous but also welcome as some are color photos of the black
& white ones introduced within each chapter.
If one were to be teaching a college level course on the history of
swimming, Springboard should be required…along with
sunglasses, sunscreen and a deckchair.
* Check out the Neptune Foundations Web site www.floatingpool.org for more information on the
history and current state of floating pools in America.
** The William Randolph Hearst Estate is in San Simeon mid way between Los Angeles and
San Francisco on California's coastline. There are a number of
different tours of the castle estate, but they all begin at the
extravagant outdoor Neptune Pool and end at the more than opulent
indoor Roman pool. This would be an incredible extra credit 'field
trip' for the aforementioned college course.