From Publishers Weekly
Inspired by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, van Leeuwen has attempted a study of the architectural form that is suburban America's definition and daydream: the swimming pool. While Bachelard's Poetics of Space enchanted scholars and readers by analyzing poetic images of the house, van Leeuwen bandies weighty terminology that proves less than enchanting. By the fifth page, he has offered the neologisms "hydrophobia," "hydrophilia" and "hydro-opportunism" (linking them to the images of the swan, the frog and the penguin, respectively). With its verbal inflation (indoor plumbing becomes "hygienic hydraulica," an aspect of the bourgeois "domestification of water") and hyperbolic treatment of the metaphysics of the afternoon swim, the book falls short of its claim to offer the history of a building type. It is well researched, and full of fascinating tidbits on the swimming pool's formal development and about designers, patrons and users of public and private pools. But interesting and useful information too often gets lost between rhapsodies stretching beyond the book's scope. The section on William Randolph Hearst, a straightforward discussion of various Hearst-related "holes in the ground," from Long Island to Santa Monica, is the most successful part. This volume is the second in a projected set of four on architecture (following Bachelard in attending to the four elements: sky, water, fire and earth, one per volume). Unfortunately, the author's grand ambitions do not fit the humble subject matter; he has produced a book only nominally about swimming pools that was clearly more fun to write than it ever could be to read. 210 illustrations, 28 in color.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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From Library Journal
Descending from van Leeuwen's towering The Skyward Trend of Thought: The Metaphysics of the American Skyscraper (MIT, 1990. o.p.), this is the second volume of a projected tetralogy on the architecture of the four classical elements?sky, water, fire, and earth. He investigates the modernist synthesis of architecture and water as manifest in a familiar water hole: the private domestic swimming pool. This imaginative work artfully plumbs the history, psychology, and cultural significance of hygienics, costumes, water sports, forms, and purposes and along the way relates pool evolution to attitudes toward bathing and swimming. Pool-crazed greater Los Angeles and Long Island's old-money estates receive pride of place. Van Leeuwen's straightforward architectural analysis, drawing on an unusual variety of sources and illustrations, is offset by less intuitive plunges into the deep waters of love and death in the swimming pool, perverse hydrophobia, and the submerged Medusa complex. Recommended for architectural research collections.?Russell T. Clement, Univ. of Tennessee Lib., Knoxville
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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