Pool Enviroment 2000
- By Miriam Raftery - July 2000

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     In the past, swimming pools often stood out from their backyard environments - for better or f or worse. Pool builders tend to ignore existing landscaping and architecture. In new homes, landscaping tended to be added as an afterthought. But that's changed.

     "People are prioritizing differently," says skip Phillips, owner of Questar Pools in Escondido and co-founder of Genesis 3, an intentional school of design for pool landscapers, builders, and architects. "Having the landscape drive backyard design is having the tail wag the dog... In smaller backyards particularly, the pool is the driving force."
     Today, some high-end pool builders, such as Questar, are taking landscaping design in-house to create fully integrated environments. Others work closely with architects or landscape designers. Similarly, some landscape professionals have embraced pool design in a quest to integrate pools with their surroundings.

     "A lot of the innovation that comes in integration of vessels and architecture comes from firms that retain high-end pool professionals to handle a portion of the execution," says Phillips, whose firm has been retained to design pools for John Lautner and Associates. Lautner, who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright, pioneered vanishing edge pools in the 1950s. "The left and right sides of the brain must work at the same time," says Phillips. "You have to understand the creative bent and also understand how to make it work mechanically. Internationally, that's what's happening."

     Total environments incorporating a pool are no longer limited to the stereotypical tropical motif. "The tranquility the Oriental designs give us is being used much more frequently in residential designs," reports Phillips. "Instead of contriving elevations and pitching huge amounts of water off fake terrain, we are finding that both clients and designers familiar with the benefits of water are doing exactly the opposite. They have very low elevation changes and very low flow rates. Your streams don't have huge flows its more tranquil o hear a brook than a river. This is a very old concept-very Zen or Feng Shui."

     At a recent project in Alvarado Estates, Phillips combined an Asian meditation garden and Koi ponds with a pool featuring multiple zero-depth access and slightly elevated spa. "When you're sitting in the spa, it sounds like you're in a stream," he notes.

     Bob Cunningham, President of Mission Valley Pools, agrees that among high-end homeowners, the trend is to incorporate pools as part of a total environmental design. "People are spending a lot more for their houses now, so they feel it's important to protect their investment by integrating the pool into their overall theme...They want an environment-and they want all the bells and whistles."

     At a builder's home in Fairbanks Ranch, for example, Mission Valley Pools created a pool and spa complete with "Tropical Forest" planted to disguise the nearby roadway. To mask traffic noise, the pool company created two large, natural-rock waterfalls and a slide for the kids integrated into the tropical landscaping. "Behind that is a totally topically paradise that is totally enclosed and private," Cunningham adds. The pools is lined with an updated version of PebbleTech. "They've got a new rock that can be placed closer together, so it has a smooth feeling," says Cunningham.

     The state-of-the-art installation features fiberoptic lighting, including a color wheel. "We backlit the falls, so at night we can turn it into Niagra Falls," sas Cunningham, adding that pool and spa features can be controlled via phone modem and intergrated into smart house technology.

     "In most backyards today, people are looking for pools to generate more than just the swimming pleasure that they get in summer," says Cunningham. Today's homeowners are apt to want a pool that makes a statement, is aesthetically pleasing, doubles as a fountain or water features, and servers as a backyard oasis. "That really is the trend," he notes.

     Some clients retrun from vacations in resorts overseas with requests for the pool builder to replicate unusual water features. "One has a shallow end with a volcanic eruption, which is really holes in the bottom of the pool with air cooming up through it," Cunningham says.

     Another client say a dolphin fountain in Europe. "We created a platform lounging area in their pool, plus a fountain so they can sit underneath this dolphin and get splashed by it," Cunningham says.

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This is a reprint of an article originally printed in Decor and Style - July 2000