• Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.
      Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.

Spotted: A poolside pop-up in Francisville

Built-in wooden deck loungers and palm trees overlook clear blue water, and patio sets grace the lawn. These are not the view of amenities at a luxury building but at Francisville Playground thanks to the Pop-Up Pool Project, an initiative to make Philly’s public pools more inviting and beautiful through low-cost but high-impact moves.

The Pop-Up Pool Project, designed by the firms Group Melvin Design and Sikora Wells Appel in partnership with Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Department of Parks and Recreation, was made possible by a $297,000 Knight Cities Challenge Grant. The program’s pilot pop-up is at Francisville’s public pool through mid-August, and will officially open with an event 4-7pm on July 1. 

Philly’s public pools tend to be basic affairs: pool, concrete deck, and lifeguard chairs in a fenced-off zone. And even though they’re extraordinary public resources scattered citywide, they can be underappreciated. The Pop-Up Pool Project’s goal is to treat our pools like the tremendous civic assets that they are, and capitalize on them by adding “lighter, quicker, cheaper” design elements. By doing so the hope is that our pools will become even more dynamic, equitable, and inviting places where people are welcome to relax, linger, and find community.

Along one edge of the pool the designers built a long wooden bench and loungers with potted palm trees for shade. (One reason our city pools don’t have deck seating already because of liability concerns. That’s why these long built-ins are more akin to bolted-down parklet design than pool lounger chairs.) Yellow umbrellas will shade new wooden benches on another fence line. Clusters of big metal tubs sport cheery plantings. And a new outdoor shower area at the entrance provides a space to wash off. The pool-deck feel extends beyond the pool area's fence there thanks to new patio furniture, both woven chair and loveseat sets in primary colors as well as wooden tables and chairs with umbrellas for picnicking.

Michelle “Tee Tee” Ruffin, a longtime seasonal Pool Maintenance Assistant and Francisville resident, said the additions have made the pool feel more family-oriented, magnetic, and the improvements are already a point of pride.

“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 55 years and we’ve always had a great pool, but this is unbelievable,” Ruffin said. “Who would ever think a palm tree is growing in Francisville?”

That sense novelty is exactly what this sort of “tactical urbanism” is meant to do: get the public to see familiar places with fresh eyes, envision new possibilities, redefine our common ground and build a new constituency of users.

“Last year our pool didn’t have any excitement. Our updated stuff is funner and more enjoyable,” Ten-year old Ayeashi Daniels told me, after posing in one of the palm trees as her mom snapped a photo.  

Eleni Zorn, a nine-year old who is on the pool’s swim team, agreed. “The improvement shows what this pool is to Francisville. It’s not just a regular pool. It makes it look more popular.”

    • Palm trees and seating are part of Francisville's Pop Up Pool, June 2015
      Palm trees and seating are part of Francisville's Pop Up Pool, June 2015
    • Ayeashi Daniels and Eleni Zorn enjoy some shade on the pop-up's big built-in pool deck seating.
      Ayeashi Daniels and Eleni Zorn enjoy some shade on the pop-up's big built-in pool deck seating.
    • The site improvements include clusters of these metal tubs as planters.
      The site improvements include clusters of these metal tubs as planters.
    • The Pop-Up Pool Project
      The Pop-Up Pool Project
    • Francisville's Pop-Up Pool Project will be open through August 21, 2015
      Francisville's Pop-Up Pool Project will be open through August 21, 2015
    • Siddiq Thurman, Ayeashi Daniels and Eleni Zorn (L to R) agree the improvements make their pool more fun.
      Siddiq Thurman, Ayeashi Daniels and Eleni Zorn (L to R) agree the improvements make their pool more fun.
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Celebrate the Pop-Up Pool Project launch on Wednesday, July 1 from 4-7pm. Visit the pool weekdays 11am-7pm and 12-5pm on weekends.  


About the author

Ashley Hahn, Managing Editor

Ashley Hahn started Eyes on the Street for PlanPhilly in 2011 and became PlanPhilly's managing editor in September 2015. She has a special interest in preservation, neighborhoods, and all things public – from policy to art. She holds masters degrees in City and Regional Planning and Historic Preservation from PennDesign. Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. She is proud to call 19147 home. 

Contact Ashley via email or find her on twitter: @ashleyjhahn.


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