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+ POOL Light Installation Tracks NYC’s Water Quality

+ POOL Light, New York, USA / Playlab Inc. + Family New York

Iwan Baan

+ POOL Light is a public art installation in NYC’s Harbor designed by Playlab Inc. and Family New York in collaboration with Floating Point. The project visualizes the conditions of NYC’s waterways through a light installation and interactive website, posing the question: how’s the water today?

Installed at the Seaport District at Pier 17 in Lower Manhattan, the plus-shaped + POOL Light measures 50 x 50 feet, is constructed of LEDs, and floats in the East River as it continuously changes in color based on the condition of water, indicating when it’s great, or not so great for swimming.

 + POOL Light, New York, USA / Playlab Inc. + Family New York

The design recognizes the “+” sign as a symbol of positivity, indicating the positive steps we have taken to improve water quality since the Clean Water Act of 1972. Conceptually it is also a symbol of inclusivity in that the water that surrounds us belongs to no one single group, but to everyone.

Data is collected and then sent to a new online dashboard developed in partnership with Reaktor (water.pluspool.org). The public dashboard explains the science behind the changing lights and tracks water quality parameters that impact swimmer experiences, such as temperature, turbidity, and salinity.

 + POOL Light, New York, USA / Playlab Inc. + Family New York

The LED sculpture glows teal when pathogens are present in the water and predictive Enterococci levels are safe for swimming (below 35 CFU). It turns to pink when those levels exceed swimming standards. The sculpture also animates, changing its direction based on the flow of current (clockwise when flowing north, counterclockwise when flowing south). The brightness, frequency, and sharpness of the lights is reflected in oxygen, turbidity, and pH, respectively.

Free for the public to engage and enjoy, and viewable from a variety of geographic points in NYC–from the Brooklyn Waterfront to the Bridges connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan–the project offers the community a unique artistic lens through which to view their urban environment and raises awareness about the current state of our rivers.