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Sink or swim

The outdoor pool at the Molitor in Paris, France.

The outdoor pool at the Molitor in Paris, France.

Clover Canyon Olive Tree Two Piece.

Clover Canyon Olive Tree Two Piece.


 

This is where the bikini made its debut in 1946. For decades, this is where Paris has gone to loosen up (its swimsuit strings). This is the ultimate pool party.

Modeled after an ocean liner, Piscine Molitor opened as a public swimming pool in 1929, a place for the upper crust to exercise and cool down under the watchful eye of lifeguards/American Olympiads Aileen Wiggin and Johnny Weissmuller (who went on to become Hollywood’s Tarzan). Designed by architect Lucien Pollet, the Art Deco icon become symbolic of erotic possibility in Paris, awash in myth and mystique.

When the pool shuttered in 1989, street artists took over (while politicians wrangled), emblazoning the cement expanse with graffiti. In 2007, the city began the redesign process, inviting bids and ultimately awarding the contract to French hotelier Accor plus partners. Embarking on a meticulous (and expensive) renovation, the group resurrected the Molitor as a 124-room luxury hotel (officially opened last week), rehabbing mosaic walls and stained-glass windows, adding a two-story annex, a spa, rooftop terrace and restaurant, and outfitting rooms with Art Deco-inspired contemporary furniture, Bose stereos and espresso makers. While still “public,” entrance prices have become prohibitive: local schoolchildren may swim for free, but the general public must pay steep fees.

In an interesting turn of historical memory, urban artists have been warmly welcomed at Molitor, with a nonprofit Poolartlife formed to foster creative happenings and an opening exhibition staged to showcase the spray-paint palimpsest. A bifurcated treatment of the past, reminiscent of the split-in-two swimwear synonymous with the site.

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