Blending the Home Architecture and Landscape with the Pool
By Eric Herman
Creating a custom swimming pool that blends with the architecture of the home and the overall setting requires teamwork, patience, and a constant devotion to superior results. As important, you have to find a top-notch team of professionals who will work together on the finest details, from the earliest design stage to the finishing touches of the construction process.
That was the case for the project pictured in these pages, located on a bluff in Southern California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. From the home’s architecture to the exterior spaces and the swimming pool, every element is in sync with the other.
Even at the beginning, the homeowners recognized that in order to achieve a cohesive look they would have to hire a top-notch architect, builder, landscape architect, and pool designer who were qualified to embrace the challenge of working at the highest possible level of design and construction. They also knew that these experts had to be able to work together.
For this project, Los Angeles-based general contractor Greg Golenberg joined swimming pool designer and builder, David Tisherman of David Tisherman’s Visuals in Manhattan Beach, CA; Los Angeles-area architect, A. Thomas Torres; and landscape architect, Maureen Barnes.
All of these skilled professionals came with experience, sterling credentials, referrals, and education. But, as Golenberg explains, they arrived with more: "A great project team is one that welcomes a challenge. From the architect, to the landscape architect, to the general contractor, to sub-contractors, to the swimming pool specialist, to material suppliers, the best teams are those that work together not only to solve problems, but also to exceed expectations."
It’s a process that requires an open mind and constant communication. Golenberg adds, "The most creative and successful designers understand that it’s not about who comes up with what idea, but using the process of discussion and brainstorming to make decisions that are best for the project."
"You don’t exactly check your ego at the door," notes Tisherman, "but when you work with a team that includes the best, you understand that everyone there is going to bring different ideas and areas of expertise to the process. And, in that setting, your ideas are going to be tested and everyone’s input is important."
Eyes for Design
The complexities of the overall process can be broken into two distinct areas: designing followed by construction, both of which must be carefully meshed and often revised along the way. The best design in the world can be rendered virtually worthless with poor construction, and likewise, the highest standards of construction practice mean nothing if the design doesn’t reflect the setting, and more importantly, the clients’ needs and desires.
The design of the landscape and the swimming pool can be determined by the desired function of the pool. "Is it for relaxation," poses Golenberg, "or for entertaining, children’s play, exercise, or purely for aesthetic purposes?"
It’s crucial to establish how the pool is going to be used and what’s important to the clients," Tisherman adds. "In this case, one of the homeowners is an avid swimmer so we knew that the pool had to be suitable for lap swimming, which was essential in determining its shape and size."
The design team can then turn to aesthetic considerations. "You need to decide whether or not the pool will harmonize with architectural elements found in the home, or in the landscape, or both," explains Tisherman. "Or is it going to be something that stands alone as a distinct artistic statement? Here the clients wanted a seamless integration of elements woven together to create continuity between the house and landscape elements that surround it."
This home’s architecture blends contemporary and Moroccan design elements complemented by a lush landscape that features extensive use of cobblestone walls. The idea for the pool, explains Tisherman, was to situate it so that its long rectilinear form--consistent with both Islamic and contemporary design traditions--and reflective qualities draw the viewers’ eyes toward the house.
"It reflects everything around it," Tisherman says, "essentially duplicating and magnifying the entire scene. You don’t look at the water and think, ‘Wow, what a beautiful swimming pool.’ Instead, you take in the entire scene and think ‘What a beautiful home and what an amazing place.’"
A Time to Build
With the design fleshed out and most of the major aesthetic decisions in hand, construction can begin and continue with the same spirit of creative cooperation.
"Any major construction project is going to present challenges along the way," cautions Golenberg. "It’s the nature of the process; the key to success is to keep the team working together at a high level and to move the process forward in a positive way with a shared goal of providing a great end result."
"True professionals understand that they are there to blend their part of the work as seamlessly as possible with everything else that’s going on," explains Tisherman. For example, he adds, "I created a deck-level overflow detail using grated stone material. The idea was to create a smooth transition between the pool, which was my area of responsibility, and the surrounding deck and stone walls, which were designed by the landscape architect."
Seasoned professionals know that construction can be traumatic for homeowners, which is why communication is every bit as important during construction as it is in the design phase. "It’s our responsibility to communicate with clients so that they have realistic expectations for time frames throughout the process,” explains Golenberg. "And we should always continue to listen to the clients’ ideas. It’s a collaborative process that runs from the earliest phases of the work right through to the end."
"When all is said and done," he concludes, "the results should speak for themselves."
Words to the Wise
David Tisherman is a tireless advocate of formal design education among his colleagues in the pool and spa industry, and he urges homeowners to do their homework in assembling a project team. He’s fond of pointing out that "water is nothing more than a highly reflective, amorphic, colorless, and tasteless material that takes on the character of the structures that contain it. The real beauty is derived from the space surrounding it and the structures that confine it. A great swimming pool is defined by the setting, not the other way around."
Photo courtesy of © Costea Photography
Eric Herman is editor of the professional journal, WaterShapes. He has been writing and reporting about the artistic uses of water in the landscape for nearly 20 years.