Ballymore

Like affordable housing, it's way out of reach for most residents.

Surely nothing bad could come from the decision to build an impossibly wondrous amenity that is accessible exclusively to a city’s very wealthiest’s residents.

Certainly there’s no reason to worry about building a jewel in plain sight of all but out of reach to almost everyone.

The developers behind Nine Elms in London, anyway, must be pretty confident that the city’s residents are not this close to grabbing pitchforks and torches. Because the developers intend to dangle a potent symbol of inequality over all of London’s heads.

Embassy Gardens, a major new housing development in the Nine Elms district near the Battersea Power Station, may feature a floating “sky pool,” a swimmy bridge suspended between two buildings. According to Homes & Property, it will measure 90 feet long, 19 feet wide, and 10 feet deep, making it one of London’s most distinctive building improvements.

If developers don’t come to their senses first, that is.

(Ballymore)

The sky pool is designed to allow condo dwellers at the Nine Elms development to casually traverse the distance between two of its towers by swimming laps. The purpose is not merely to make it easier for residents—and only residents—to get from one rooftop deck to another. It allows them to be seen while doing so.

Nine Elms has a visibility problem: It insists on being seen. It flaunts. The sky pool is cousin to the Nine Elms-to-Pimlico bridge, an outlandish piece of design in the works for the development. (A winner in the architecture competition for that bridge will be named in October.) But a suspended swimming pool is so much worse than an amenity disguised as infrastructure, such as the Garden Bridge. The sky pool secures an ultra-elite experience at the cost of casually insulting a city in the grips of an affordable-housing crisis.

Units in Embassy Gardens start at $944,000. That’s the price basement—nearly a million bucks. There is nothing wrong with residents choosing to live in million-dollar condos or paying for luxury amenities. Yet there is a risk that comes with giving profligate wealth physical form and insisting on its transparency. It’s easy to imagine an excessively, aggressively exclusionary amenity becoming a focal point for anger over London’s extreme income inequality and affordable housing, at a time when activism on these topics is growing more intense.

Now, I don’t think anything would ever come of that irritation, if the sky pool is built. For structural and regulatory reasons, I doubt the pool will ever be given much serious thought anyway. For London’s sake, I hope not. If this developer builds a middle finger to the city of London, its people just might get the idea that Nine Elms is rude.

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