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Piscinas das Marés
Leça Da Palmeira, Portugal

Wentworth Institute of Technology students enter the Leça swimming pools (Piscinas das Marés), Portugal. Photo by Dan Smith.







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In September, 10 graduate students and I visited the Leça swimming pools, designed by Alvaro Siza. We traveled to the pools during our trip to Lisbon and Porto, Portugal, as part of a special topics studio at Boston’s Wentworth Institute of Technology. Walking along the edge between the city and the sea, we caught glimpses of the pools and their relationship to the ocean. It was not until we moved along the sequence the architect had intended that we were able to understand and perceive the whole.

We descended down and entered the changing rooms, compressed and dark with low ceilings and tight walls. Suddenly the city was left behind, and we had no view of what was to come. As we continued along this compressed threshold, the sky opened overhead. We followed a wall that blocked our view; only at its end did it open to reveal the pools set into the natural rock formations. The pools seemed to blend with the ocean as the water levels were at the same height. The pools and the ocean appeared as one, their boundaries blurred.

The fog lifted, the surf became higher, and waves began to break over the pools, mixing the manmade with the natural force of the ocean. We sat perched on the rocks, mesmerized by the waves crashing into the pools. We could imagine Siza walking along, surveying the rocks himself to decide which ones to use as defining moments and where to place his walls. His insight and nature’s force were working as one.