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Building for Pools, and Pools for Building

02-marina-bay-sands-singapore-pool_1600Water features are more than a finishing touch on a building project or just something you add on for interest at the end of a job. They may be part of the exterior design in conjunction with landscaping, but they work together with a building, or group of them, to create a total concept or environment. Sometimes it is for the purpose of water recreation, and often it is a matter of artistic “finish” as when pools, ponds, and fountains bring a welcome touch of décor. In any case, the goal is to be innovative and meaningful.

In old world architecture, back to the Italian Renaissance, the look was representative of the time. Major constructions such as palaces and public buildings were done in the Greco-Roman revival style (complete with pediments, posts and lintels, etc. and putti spouting fountains) or Baroque, with lots of swirling, exciting forms bedecking a massive water system. They could go ultra-ornate, as in the Rococo period, or Romantic in the 19th century which water grottos were de rigueur (complete with real moss and stone statues). It is a lot of fun to look at the best designers had to offer in the distant past.

In the 20th century, the Olympic swimming pool was the ubiquitous features in mansions and at resorts that did not have ocean views. After all, the sea is a landmark that captivated attention from afar, drawing people to come and relax, have some fun in the sun. Many people started to take up underwater sports with advances in the 20th century in underwater access, through the development of affordable snorkel marks and of course, scuba gear becoming a lot more accessible than the initial designs of solid helmets and suits filled with air tethered to the boat above. It became so commonplace as to be expected; and early awes turned to cordial compliments. Right from the start, landscaping had to work around its giant presence. Palm trees began to propagate.

In the 20th century, the hallmark of luxury in water features is the infinity pool that creates the magic illusion of extending forever. What new or remodeled Malibu home doesn’t have one? Don’t be confused by infinity and endless pools. They are not the same animal. While the smaller endless pool accommodates a swimmer doing laps, the infinity pool can work in a desert or ocean setting to become one with the distant horizon. With an endless pool, there are no flip-turns thanks to a variable speed current. Some call it a treadmill for swimmers, but it is also quite picturesque when adorned with exquisite tiles and painted a deep color.

The infinite edge pool, as it is also known, or the vanishing edge pool has one or more exposed wall called a weir. This is a pinch shorter than water level, causing water to flow into a catch basin positioned below. The result is a stunning sense of infinity as an optical illusion. It is a wonderful structural and mechanical feat (massive pumps keep the water going constantly. The Olympic pool pales in comparison in spite of its larger size because it is just more of the same traditional concept.

What it all comes down to, apart from some rather pleasant encounters, is form and function in some kind of special synergy. The utilitarian aspects of fountains, ponds, and pools has to meld with a desired appearance. In the best and most innovative work, the purpose is expressed creatively. This means that there is a true aesthetic sense required to conceive of projects that enhance a garden or backyard space, but do not contradict the building style. You would not want a sprawling mess of an English garden, for example, with a French chateau style home complete with manicured lawn, fountains and statuary. They are not even distant relatives.

Knowing the history of art and styles is thus a pre-requisite for designers, contractors, and planners. There is also more than a modicum of engineering involved for the main architect. If a team is at work, a unified concept should be offered that transcends the ideas of each member.

Given raw land, or maybe the bare bones of a structure, is like a blank sheet of paper for a drawing or a raw canvas for a painter. You can make of it what you will. You can transform earth and sky with the addition of your own natural elements. A water feature grabs the eye and takes it to a mythic place inhabited by nature spirits. There are so many associations to make with each and every one. Even the most modern, sleek pool or fountain has its story to tell.

Deciding on which water feature to include, and imagining the right shape, proportions, and size takes a level head with a huge dose of artistry mixed with in. Do you want a gazebo nearby, a greenhouse, or a heated indoor pool? It is an enjoyable aspect of any building project, and you always welcome the opportunity.