DIGSAU Designs Futuristic Roman Ruins in Philadelphia

Sept. 12, 2023

Decorating the Philadelphia skyline with asymmetrical arches, rounded edges, in-pool columns, terraces, trellises, and crisp concrete, the Aqua Foro Pool Club nods to its ancient Roman inspiration — and builds upon it with modern finishes.

The 25,000-square-foot facility opened this year with interconnected pools, fire pits, kitchens, a hot tub, a children’s splash pad, and luxurious lounge space. The terrace and sundeck offer spacious cabanas for socializing, sunbathing, and relaxation – all while taking in views of Philadelphia’s historic urban landscape and waterfront.

“Philadelphia is a major city, but I think it’s lacking a sophisticated product in terms of rental housing. We wanted to make an oasis in the city that is accessible to the people of Philadelphia. You should not have to travel abroad to get these great pool clubs and amenities. We wanted to create that here,” said Rebecca Frisch, vice president of design for Post Brothers, the developer and general contractor for the project.

DIGSAU, a Philadelphia-based contemporary architecture firm, collaborated with Post Brothers to create a schematic design for the rooftop pool club. The design process started in 2021. The pool club opened to Alta residents in 2023.

“DIGSAU originally generated 10 big ideas for the space. We loved all of them and ended up with a mix of two. The concept is futuristic, Roman ruins. Something that’s other-worldly. At one point we were calling it cloud city,” said Frisch. In fact, “Foro” from the pool’s name, is in reference to the Roman Forum, a plaza surrounded by ruins of ancient government buildings in the center of Rome.

The stunning arches, benches, and planter walls are custom concrete pieces that help to craft this incredible oasis. "We worked with Nelson Precast out of Maryland. It was their first project like this, but their product came out beautiful! Each arch, bench, and planter wall was a custom piece made from solid glass fiber-reinforced concrete with additional rebar and steel for structural connection to the concrete slab," said Ryan Donohue, Senior Project Manager, Post Brothers.

Aqua Foro won the 19th annual Hospitality Design Award. Some of its most distinguished design elements include in-pool undulating chaise lounge chairs from Ledge, a custom deep-blue pool color from Wet Edge designed to mimic the Mediterranean Sea, and bright travertine pavers from Kronos. The light-filtering perforated paneling on the trellis, which complements the soft structural curves of the concrete surfaces, is from Bok Modern. For an extra touch, the team flew in cypress trees from Texas.

“I think it’s an incredible space. The views – the way you feel inside. You can’t believe you’re in Philadelphia,” said Frisch. “It’s breathtaking.”