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The Economy

Sky Pool Is Everything Wrong With the World

How could one pool symbolize all of the worst cruelties of modern life? Read on.

A BBC video of Sky Pool, the London development that is a pool in the sky
BBC News

Wow, look at Sky Pool.

It’s a pool….in the sky. Everyone’s talking about Sky Pool, the pool in the sky. My first reaction was “nope.” I’m not afraid of heights but a long thin pool suspended in mid-air and visible where any old Godzilla or television camera can get at it seems bad to me. OK, moving on. Except, wait, Sky Pool is not just a fun bit of trivia, it is also…wait for it…a symbol of all of the worst problems with society!

You knew I was going there, didn’t you? This is Discourse Blog, we do not linger long on the purely good. We love dystopia.

It didn’t take too much time for the evils of Sky Pool (a name which, the more you say it, takes on an increasingly villainous, Soylent Green sort of quality—say, isn’t it strange that everyone keeps going to Sky Pool and never coming back?) to reveal themselves. There’s the inherent evil of a large, staggeringly expensive property being built for the idle rich to literally paddle around among the clouds while the rest of humanity slogs it out below, but that’s just scratching the surface.

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Turns out that Sky Pool is part of a development called Embassy Gardens along the Thames in southwest London. It’s called Embassy Gardens because it was built up around the site of the new American embassy in the city. (I told you this was grim.) And it is, quite literally, segregated by class.

From a Guardian piece about the development in February:

Every morning, when Nadeem Iqbal wakes up and walks into his living room, he has a view of…the Sky Pool, the latest addition to the luxury residential enclave of Embassy Gardens in Nine Elms, south-west London[.]

[…]

But, although he lives in Embassy Gardens, Iqbal and his neighbours will never enjoy the thrill of going for an aerial dip. “We have a front-row seat of the Sky Pool,” he told me. “But the sad thing for us, living in the shared-ownership building, is that we will never have access to it. It’s only there for us to look at, just like the nice lobby, and all of the other facilities for the residents of the private blocks. Nobody expects these amenities for free, but we’re not even given the choice to pay for them.”

For Iqbal to reach his two-bed flat – valued at £800,000, of which he owns a quarter and pays rent on the rest – he must walk past the grand, hotel-style main entrance to the complex, flanked by supercars with personalised number plates, to the back of the development, past construction fences and piles of rubble, to a small door located between ventilation grilles and a bin store, facing on to a railway line. “There’s a reason they’re called ‘poor doors’,” he said. “I grew up in South Africa, in a country that was racially segregated, but in London there is still really bad class segregation. We have a mortgage and we pay our rent, but every day we are made to feel inferior, like the have-nots of Nine Elms.”

That’s right: Embassy Gardens has some apartments set aside for supposedly more “affordable” rates (as if £800,000 is not still outlandish), and those people are barred from Sky Pool, along with a host of the other amenities that the richer residents get. They’re not even allowed to use the same door.

How did this monstrosity come about, you ask? Well, Embassy Gardens is part of an even bigger development in the surrounding area—one that, as local Labour politician Aydin Dikerdem explained, was a complete boondoggle from the start:

So the government weakened affordable housing rules and turned a gigantic development in London, which is in dire need of lower housing prices, to the rich. And now the people who can scrape the money together for one of the “affordable” houses in the area have to use the shame door, while Apple moves in next door. But at least there’s Sky Pool! Which they can’t use.

Oh, one last thing: Ballymore, the Irish company that co-owns the Embassy Gardens project with a group of Malaysian investors (yep, just the kind of organic, grassroots community project we want to see more of), is a notoriously bad and shady landlord, even for rich scumbags.

To recap, then: Sky Pool is both a dumbass idea that is just begging for Godzilla to swing by and a symbol of the worst kind of speculative, oligarchical, corrupt, and cruel partnership between government and private capital. Maybe the BBC, the UK’s national broadcaster with about a gajillion reporters, could have mentioned any of that at some point, rather than just going, “ooooh, Sky Pool?” Wait, that’s another thing to add to the list: Sky Pool is also a reminder that journalists often park their brains at the door when rich people bring out shiny new things. Wow, this pool really has everything.