Beyond the Edge
Last month, I did my usual annual roundup of books that feature custom residential swimming pools. I must confess that I deliberately withheld one such book from the usual summary treatment because it was just too good for me not to give it a full column’s attention this time around.
The book – Infinity Pools by Ana G. Canizares (Collins Design, 2006) – is one of the best on pools as a design genre that I’ve ever seen. In fact, one of the few things I don’t like about it is the title, because I’ve always preferred the term “vanishing edge.” That quibble aside, I think she’s done a terrific job of presenting what has to be the most powerful, influential design look of the past 20 years. More important, she manages to do so without making these pools seem a visual cliché.
As is demonstrated repeatedly
throughout the book’s 190 beautifully illustrated pages, vanishing edges are truly dynamic design features when used appropriately and creatively. This collection, however, goes far beyond the basics, serving as a gallery of some of the most beautiful projects of any kind I’ve seen gathered in one volume. In fact, it’s such a fine collection that the title almost does the content a disservice by making it seem more limited than it really is.
For one thing, the geographic diversity is amazing. In addition to representing what we do here in the United States, there are also projects from Costa Rica, Lebanon, Austria, Italy, South Africa, Brazil, Australia and Spain. For another, the range of styles on display is quite diverse, including not just the predictable ultramodern projects but also some that might be classified as classic or tropical and some others that defy easy classification. Finally, the photography is stunning – some of the best I’ve ever seen in a book of this kind – and the descriptions, although brief, offer interesting insights into the designs and settings.
All of that is impressive, but what really won me over is the fact that the book puts myriad details on full display. Beginning with the edges themselves, we are treated to a host of ways that these pools can be used to create visual links to a setting, a home’s architecture, a landscape or the hardscape elements that surround these pools. There are creative shade structures, deck treatments and railings, for example, along with well-realized lounge areas, entertainment spaces, fire elements and various associated waterfeatures.
The use of materials in some of these projects is nothing short of visionary. The combinations of water with wood, stone, glass, tile, stainless steel, thatching, grass, cobbles and sculptures are uniformly tasteful and thoughtfully integrated. There are also wonderful examples of lighting, step treatments, pathways, stepping stones, catch basins, troughs, edge details and spas. It’s a true tour de force.
A number of wonderful watershapers are featured – most prominently my friend Joan Roca of Costa Rica, who contributed five projects to the collection (a couple of which have appeared in WaterShapes in recent years). His work here demonstrates a fluidity of design sensibility and a sensitivity to settings that is profound and inspiring.
To be sure, some of the projects Canizares covers are better than others and some even contain what I’d consider to be obvious mistakes (white drain covers in pools with dark finishes, for example). Overall, however, this collection shows off the art of watershaping in ways that capture its true potential even for those who think vanishing edges are already a bit passé: To me, it’s a worthy addition to any designer’s bookshelf.
Mike Farley is a landscape architect with more than 20 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas. A graduate of Genesis 3’s Level I Design School, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.