Bathers in New York have taken to swimming in water-filled skips

Some ideas are great; others are rubbish. This, it would seem, combines both. In what has become a summer phenomenon in New York, bathers are swimming in water-filled dumpsters – that's American for skip – and queuing up for the privilege.

The idea of swimming in rubbish skips originated in the UK. But like many British inventions, it has been taken up and given an injection of enthusiasm by the US.

Three giant skips have been hauled to an industrial lot in Brooklyn, where they were fitted with plastic liners and filled with 19,000 gallons of water. The skips are arranged in a half-circle and connected by a wooden deck, with folding chairs set out for tanning. Pool filters keep the water circulating.

"We are trying to do a kind of low-fi, urban country club," said David Belt, who, with associates Jocko Weyland and Alix Fienkind, masterminded the project. "It's very ironic: it's a trash receptacle but it's clean and refreshing. It's funny how many people assume that people in New York would swim in really dirty water."

The urban oasis, unveiled over the 4 July weekend, was originally intended only for friends and family, but when photos of the pools popped up in local media, a manic search began and crowds began to descend on the site.

"It became this crazy thing where everyone was trying to find the dumpsters," said Weyland, a designer. "But the reality is, you can't invite everybody over."

The skip pool complex has since hosted small parties and concerts.

Two years ago British design artist Oliver Bishop-Young transformed skips into skateboard ramps, miniature gardens and street-side swimming pools. His south London water holes did not attract as many patrons as their American counterparts.

"I had a group of friends come by. I opened it up to the public as well, but I didn't have any takers."

The American designers said they had not seen Bishop-Young's work before they built their own pool complex. Nevertheless, they spoke admiringly of the Englishman's work with rubbish receptacles. Bishop-Young, who has moved on to new design projects around Europe, returned the compliment.

"These kinds of ideas can be flogged about and repatriated," he said. "I'd prefer people to be enjoying it. In a way, it's quite flattering."