A Perfect 10:

With a spectacular new design by Arquitectonica,
The Swimming Hall Of Fame is ready for its close-up.

Swimming, it can be argued, can be credited for putting Fort Lauderdale on the map. But wait, you might think, “Wasn’t it Spring Break that put this city on America’s collective radar screen?” Follow us for a few minutes while we connect the dots for you. 

During the land boom of the early 1920s, towns in South Florida pushed the image of an elegant life of leisure, building golf and country clubs as well as what were known as swimming ‘casinos.’ Not to be left behind, Fort Lauderdale built its own, a Mediterranean Revival confection, complete with Moorish tile, stucco walls and arched loggias. It is here, in 1936, that Sam Ingram, swim coach at Colgate University came up with the idea of training his student athletes at this sun-drenched facility. The College Swimming Coaches of America followed suit, training undergrad swimmers during Christmas breaks and spring vacations. Men and women trained in the Casino Pool each year, and by 1960, the Coaches Forum brought in student athletes from 44 colleges. Word travelled from tanned athletes to pale academics about Fort Lauderdale’s swaying palms and 70-degree weather. The subsequent Spring Break with its hoards of students, filled hotels beyond capacity and put Lauderdale on the map.    

The aging Casino Pool was replaced in 1965 by a state of the art aquatic complex, flanked by the Swimming Hall of Fame headquarters. This complex, in turn, needed an upgrade in 1986 and the renowned firm of Aquitectonica, based in Miami, was brought in. Arquitectonica was headed up at that time by two design dynamos, Laurinda Spear and Bernardo Fort-Brescia. Known for a dynamic, expressive take on Modernism, the firm single-handedly transformed Miami in people’s minds from God’s waiting room into a hip, diverse, tropical city. The bold, graphic nature of their work was imported to Fort Lauderdale when the revamped Aquatic Complex re-opened in 1993, sporting a wave-form museum topping a massive sculpture, its circular openings sheathed in mosaic tile.

Well, while 1993 might seem like yesterday, after nearly 30 years, the entire complex was in desperate need of an upgrade. This meant focusing on the pools and diving platforms first and foremost, then radiating those efforts out to essentially rebuild the rest of the campus, which sits on a man-made peninsula jutting into the Intracoastal Waterway.  In some cities the answer to this cry for help would be endless meetings and a repair job consisting of a coat of elastomeric paint and some new fluorescent lights. Here, the call for help went out to old friends. Those old friends just happened to be the team at Aquitectonica, now one of the most respected design firms worldwide. 

 Deep terraces, radiused corners and the back-and-forth of tray-like forms make the proposed entry building to the Aquatic Complex an instant icon.   Rendering: Aquitectonica

Just unveiled, Arquitectonica proposed a dynamic structure that will become the face of the Aquatic Complex that fronts Seabreeze Boulevard. And what a structure it is, indeed.  The proposed five-story structure is at once bold, elegant and energetic. Its designers have created an exhilarating set of tray-like forms that push and pull from north to south, each alternately wrapped in glass or open air. It offers up an “only- in-Fort-Lauderdale moment, with a breezy connection to 

the site’s main attractions: its pools and diving towers. A firm known for their jaw-dropping moments (like Miami’s Atlantis Condominium, with its improbable, five-story hole, punched through its center and emphasized by an exterior spiral staircase in bright red) does not disappoint here. Giant, two-story letters in cast concrete spell out the words “SWIM” on the street facade and “DIVE” facing the pools.

A second structure at the west  end of the property continues the streamilned quality of the east building, and will house the museum, function spaces and a rooftop restaurant.   Rendering: Arquitectonica

A curvaceous building of similar height will sit at the western-most end of the property, and stylistically, has a symbiotic relationship with the front structure. This one has a weather-protected teaching pool under bleacher-style seats, a high-ceilinged event level, space for offices, museum and gift shop. On its top level is a proposed restaurant with spectacular views of the ocean, Intracoastal and pools. Three of these levels are proposed to have green roofs.  Once complete, Fort Lauderdale’s Aquatic Complex and the International Swimming Hall of Fame are sure to garner international recognition once more. The editors at ISLAND magazine would like to offer our congratulations on a magnificent design.