By Steve Dallons
The late, great architect John Lautner is believed to have been among the first to conceive of and build a vanishing-edge swimming pool as a means of more directly tying views across the water into distant vistas. It’s a landmark of modern aquatic design that has been emulated thousands of times in the 45 years since he designed “Silvertop” in Los Angeles, and it’s wonderful to know that his spirit of innovation survives to this day in the company he started.
The home and watershapes seen here are the work of Lautner’s protégé and longtime collaborator, Helena Arahuete of John Lautner Associates (Hollywood, Calif.), who composed it all as a spectacular exploration of organic design principles and the use of water to express and magnify details of a setting while leading the
eye into the distance.
This pool seen here may have a deck-level, perimeter-overflow edge treatment rather than a vanishing edge, but it functions in the environment in much the same way – as a rectangular key to experiencing the home, the ambition of its owner, its spectacular setting and views that literally go on forever.
The indoor/outdoor footprint of the pool begins the process of drawing the eye from inside to outside. There are brilliant reflections off the deck-level water, incredible blues set against rich earth tones of stone decking that flows right into the home alongside the water.
|The finished cantilever carries the surcharge of the pool and spa shells, the stone decking and a large volume of water without showing the slightest visual effort – a tribute to a highly refined design, great engineering and phenomenally careful construction by many trades.|
Most spectacular of all, the pool deck has a southwestern orientation that carries the observer beyond the deck and mountaintop and on to San Francisco Bay and the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The photographs will do much of the talking here, because I find it difficult to express the searing beauty of this place in words. I am also humbled by Arahuete’s sensitivity to the mountaintop site and the way she has used steel, concrete, glass and stone to engage all 360 degrees of unobstructed views of what is truly a beautiful part of the planet.
|The dark, all-glass-tile finishes of the perimeter-overflow pool and spa make the vessels stand out in the field of flagstone decking – just the sort of wide-open, highly reflective surfaces the architect was after in designing them.|
The pool is a key component of this aesthetic package, and the way the watershape’s supporting cantilever juts out over the hillside is a detail that both intimidated and inspired us as we worked. Arahuete’s genius is revealed in just how amazing and impressive the home looks from down the hillside – a thoroughness of design that challenged all of us but inspired us to rise to the occasion.
|The glass panels and the indoor/outdoor nature of the pool create stunning visuals from the outside looking in and from the inside looking out, but there’s also much to be said about the purely interior views, where reflections off the water make the space expand.|
Up on top, from inside the house with the pool at your feet and the glass panels retracted, you get a sense of moving through unending space, with visibility through the atmosphere and your own eyesight providing the only limitations. I came to appreciate the entire structure, watershapes and all, as a work of the sculptor’s art, but at the same time, I also found it a remarkably inviting and comfortable place to be.
In the May 2004 issue of WaterShapes, I covered the process by which the watershapes were built (click here). Allow me to step back now and let the beauty of Arahuete’s dynamic design do most of the rest of the talking.
Steve Dallons is owner and president of Pacific Pools in Alamo, Calif. He established the firm in 1985 after spending five frustrating years working in a volume builder’s design and sales departments. From the start, Pacific Pools has focused exclusively on creating quality, custom swimming pools and spas for residential clients in the San Francisco Bay area. Dallons prides himself on his hands-on approach to project management and his focus on offering clients the highest levels of service through all phases of the design and construction process. He has a background in design and architecture and is a graduate of the Genesis 3 Design School.