Dezeen Magazine

Alex Proba's graphic designs in Palm Springs

Alex Proba's graphic swimming pools are "a celebration of colour and pattern"

Designer Alex Proba hand-paints swimming pools with graphic murals, including the pools of two Palm Springs houses and a mural on the deck of a public pool on Manhattan's Roosevelt Island.

These three designs showcase Proba's signature shapes and playful use of colour. One painted pool belongs to Marrow House, a private residence in Rancho Mirage in California.

The hand-painted swimming pool at Marrow House by Alex Proba
Top and above: the painted pool at Marrow House

The Rancho Mirage pool's design is an explosion of colourful curving shapes to contrast the geometrical mid-century house designed by American architect Donald Wexler, and the angular shape of the pool itself.

At the shallow end, oversized chartreuse-coloured petal-like shapes twist towards a large pink and orange orb tumbling down the pool's steps.

Painted details of the Marrow House pool by Alex Proba
The Marrow House pool's decorated steps

The deep end is painted in peaceful turquoise shades which are offset by a pronged pink shape that takes cues from Atomic Age signage.

Discussing her various choices of colour and shapes, Proba said, "it's trial and error. Most of the time it is a natural inclination for me to choose one colour or pattern over another and I do not overthink it."

Proba's painted Palm Springs pool blends with its setting
Hill House's curved pool

Another painted pool by Proba is at Hill House, an Airbnb in Palm Springs, with a curved pool that perfectly compliments Proba's style.

"The shape of the pool is organic and it blends well with my work. I just tried to connect all of the aspects together," Proba told Dezeen.

The Hill House pool blends with its setting
Organic shapes twist around Hill House's pool

The curved pool is decorated in bright pinks and oranges, painted on top of each other to form a cluster of colour alongside blue and purple plant-like shapes.

Some shapes have a single hue, while others are intricately decorated with delicate speckles. Thin black lines snake across the colourful shapes, adding subtle detail to the bold designs.

Plain coloured and speckled graphic shapes decorate Alex Proba's Hill House pool in Palm Springs
Details of Hill House's vividly painted pool

Painting the outdoor pools can be a gruelling process, said Proba.

"You are mostly in a weird position, hunched down. My knees were hurting," she said. "Palm Springs tends to get very hot too, so sometimes our paint trays melted."

The Manhattan pool's graphic mural by Alex Proba
Proba's mural on the deck of a Roosevelt Island pool in Manhattan

For Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, Proba painted a vivid mural on the deck of a public pool for a project curated by K&CO and Pliskin Architecture.

A kaleidoscope-like mural of contrasting colours, Proba described her Manhattan mural as "a shape party."

Alex Proba's hand-painted graphic mural in Manhattan
Proba's colourful mural transforms the public pool's deck

The public pool's unique design also offers a playful solution to wayfinding. Visitors can plan to meet each other at a splash of turquoise, or in the middle of a speckled blob.

Painted during 2020, the mural also intends to be celebratory and hopeful during the midst of a global pandemic.

The hand-painted Alex Proba swimming pool mural in Manhattan
The Manhattan pool's unique shapes act as wayfinding devices

While each of Proba's pool designs is unique, all three projects are led by her instinctive desire to create dynamic visuals.

"I trust my gut, and 99 per cent of the time I go with my first pattern or colour. The times when I question myself and go back and change them is when the design actually fails."

Alex Proba swimming pools
Water catches the sunlight at Hill House

Designers everywhere are celebrating the potential of swimming pools in public and private spaces alike. In Stockholm, Folkform has installed a glass and ceramic mural with over 1,000 individual pieces in an indoor public swimming pool. Lost House, a property in London by David Adjaye, has a bedroom with its own pool on a plinth.

Founded in 2013, Studio Proba is a New York-based multidisciplinary design studio led by Alex Proba.

Photography is by Madeline Tolle and Max Touhey.

More images

The Marrow House pool painted by Alex Proba
The Marrow House pool unfilled
The Marrow House pool filled
The Marrow House pool from an aerial view, unfilled
Alex Proba's graphic painted shapes at the Hill House pool
Thin black lines snaking over colourful shapes at Hill House
The colourful Hill House pool by Alex Proba by night
An aerial view of the pool mural on Manhattan's Roosevelt Island
The colourfully designed Manhattan mural
The colourful mural in New York
The Manhattan pool's colourful mural by Alex Proba
Alex Proba painting the swimming pool at Hill House
Alex Proba painting speckled details at Hill House