DESIGNING KITS POOL

Originally built in 1931, Kits Pool is Vancouver's only (heated) saltwater swimming pool and, at 137m (150 yards), it's also the longest pool in Canada. The pool itself is picturesque, with views of the mountains, ocean, beach, and downtown skyline. The pool is designed like the neighbouring beach, gradually becoming deeper as you wade toward the ocean, making it accessible to every age and swimming ability from babies to athletes. 

And while all those things make Kits Pool worth a visit, there's much more to the pool's design than most people know (until now...).

In the 1970s the City decided to renovate the pool to bring it up to the BC Building Code. They hired Howard Architects and John Bingham was tasked as the Project Architect. Fortunately for us, we know John pretty well and convinced him to tell us anything he could remember about the renovation that isn't already on paper.

The first challenge of the renovation was to address the Provincial Government's requirement for a continuous seawall path for public access and maintenance along the entire length of the seawall. At that time, a concrete wall separated the ocean from the pool, effectively ending the seawall to the east of the pool. The Architects kept the original wall (which is still there today directly north of the pool) and created a new wall for the pool at a higher elevation so that it was no longer fed directly by the ocean. 

One of the major components of the renovation was to include new mechanics for cleaning and heating the water. Since its opening, the pool had been seawater fed at high tide. Until the renovation, though, the water was untreated and unheated. With the addition of new mechanical system, the pool is now filled with treated sea water once only at the beginning of the summer. Over the season, evaporated water is replaced by fresh water. By the end of the summer, Kits Pool is filled with more fresh water than sea water. 

The change rooms were also included in the renovation. The men's and ladies' symbols on the walls differentiating the change rooms were meant to be placeholders on the Architectural drawings only. However, they ended up making the cut and are carefully recreated with every paint job. The cubbies on the deck are chimney stacks turned on their side, a relatively cheap (and original) way to create open cubbies. Light wells into the change rooms can be seen from the concession stand south of the pool, but have since been covered to mitigate privacy concerns.

Other areas included in the renovation were the Showboat, which acts as a stage for amateur performers. The circular deck that sits out above the change room was originally supposed to have a tent (the clips for the tent are still there). However, the tent and the children's spray park designed to the east of the pool for eliminated due to budgetary constraints (and have apparently since been abandoned altogether).

Construction of the renovation began in 1978 and took approximately one season to complete. Apparently, the mayor at the time received numerous complaints about noise during the construction, which could only be done during low-tide, whenever low tide happened to be that day. 

After leading the design of the renovation, the same Architectural firm was commissioned by the City to design Second Beach Pool. While Second Beach Pool is not saltwater fed, it does have the same graduated entry as Kitsilano Pool, making it equally popular for families with young children.

Read and see more here

  John Bingham , of Bingham + Hill Architects, was the project architect for the pool's renovation

John Bingham, of Bingham + Hill Architects, was the project architect for the pool's renovation

  Looking North over Kits Pool during its first season after the renovations.   Photo courtesy of Bingham + Hill Architects.

Looking North over Kits Pool during its first season after the renovations. Photo courtesy of Bingham + Hill Architects.

  The view from inside the lifeguard station, 1979.   Photo courtesy of Bingham + Hill Architects

The view from inside the lifeguard station, 1979. Photo courtesy of Bingham + Hill Architects

  Kits Pool during its first season after the renovations in 1978.   Photo courtesy of Bingham + Hill Architects.

Kits Pool during its first season after the renovations in 1978. Photo courtesy of Bingham + Hill Architects.