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Blog art croppedBy Jim McCloskey

A few weeks back, I saw an item on the architecture website Arch Daily that immediately caught my eye. Entitled “Infinity Pools in 15 Architecture Projects” and compiled by Brazilian architect Eduardo Souza, the article delivers as promised – and I’m grateful that, for a change, I was familiar with only a few of the watershapes on display.

Souza gathered his candidates from among vanishing-edge pools he’d spotted on the Arch Daily site and rationalized the exercise by offering a brief technical explanation of how to create the visual effect.

But before he gets there, he starts with: “There are few things that fascinate us more than the sea. Its contemplation arouses a sense of peace, while its colors, textures, movements and amplitude provide a scientifically proven effect of relaxation in our nervous system. Above all, it makes us realize how small we are in the universe.

“It is not by chance that a house facing the sea is a dream of consumption for many, let alone with a pool right in front of it,” he continues. “Infinity pools play with this feeling of infinite sea and sky. Through a well-elaborated set of levels and plans, they create an optical illusion that leaves everyone speechless, making pool water appear as if merged with the horizon, overflowing at one or more edges.”

Many of the images that follow his subsequent how-to explanation of what makes vanishing edges tick are simply breathtaking, and my sole compliant is that, while the pools are identified by Souza with a project name and the identity of the architect or architecture firm behind it, you have to dig down a level to get more information in the form of the original Arch Daily articles Souza used as his source material.

The 15 projects, it turns out, hail from Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Brazil, Uruguay, Japan, Spain and Switzerland, with one example drawn from the United States. The images are often dramatic and are, without exception, quite beautiful. But there are a few that really blew me away, including “The Tent” and the “I Resort” from the Vietnam’s a21 Studio and the “Fasano Las Piedras Hotel” by Uruguay’s Isay Weinfeld.

I’m not sure I needed the nudge, but Souza’s article reminded me of the extent to which watershaping has become a truly global endeavor. I recall being astonished at seeing vanishing-edge pools from France while judging design awards for what was then the National Spa & Pool Institute back in the 1980s – and then watched avidly as Skip Phillips, Lew Akins and a handful of other Americans adopted the form, figured out the hydraulics and structures and began pushing edge details in new and increasingly ambitious directions.

But as we learned, there were precedents even for those incredible French pools. It was cool to discover, for example, that American architect John Lautner had made a vanishing edge work in the Los Angeles area as far back as the 1950s. And then there’s the simple fact that innumerable commercial and institutional pools, equipped with scum gutters and built up to 100 years ago, are basically unexploited vanishing-edge structures that operate on the same principles Souza defines in his text.

And then it all flowed together for me as I looked through the images Souza had compiled for a third and fourth time: The last 30 years have been utterly amazing in the watershaping realm, and to see the level of imagination, creativity and technical skill now commonly on display with vanishing edges and other innovative approaches truly warms my heart.

And it’s not just pools and spas: When I think about fountains and ponds and other forms of contained, controlled water we at WaterShapes has covered since 1999 – and about how far they’ve come and how limitless the horizon seems – I stand a bit taller, smile more broadly and can’t wait for new wonders to flash across my big computer screen.

As I see it, that’s a great way to spend a day.

To see the Arch Daily article on 15 cool vanishing-edge pools, click here.

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