Edmonton's natural swimming pool honoured for innovation

The Borden Park swimming pool has won a prestigious architecture award that honours its integration of chemical-free technology into a beautifully designed public recreation facility.

Located just northeast of downtown Edmonton, the one-year-old facility is Canada's first chemical-free public outdoor pool. The design process involved developing a pool technology that cleanses water through stone, gravel, sand, and botanic filtering processes.

The pool won the Innovation in Architecture award, one of eight honours announced Tuesday by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. The innovation award considers factors such as research and development, new and adapted technologies, construction methods and fresh approaches to details and materials.

gh3*

"The Borden Park pool embodies the idea of innovation into an effortless and subtle architectural outcome," the panel of three jurors said in a statement.

"The strength of the simple, yet powerful architecture is beautifully integrated with the biological systems that provide healthy user experiences, both physically and psychologically."

The new pool, designed by the architecture firm gh3*, replaced an existing pool and includes a seasonal pavilion and landscaped pool precinct for 400 swimmers. The entry description explained that the challenge was in creating a large-scale pool with natural filtration that could meet health standards.

"Canada's guidelines for public pools are some of the strictest in the world," which required a science-based approach to the challenge, the project description said.

"By classifying the project as 'recreational waters,' the building permit was issued as a 'constructed beach with variances,' and the variance were the pools."

gh3*

The design was meant to evoke the geology of the North Saskatchewan River, the description said, along with the flat topography of the prairie to "encirch the narrative of bathing in the landscape."

The new pool proved to be a hit with swimmers when it opened last summer, with long lines being common. In its first week of operation, the pool closed early on four days because of its daily swimmer limits.

The RAIC awards are given out every two years.