Learning how to incorporate vanishing edges into a pool and spa project

0308 36There was a time when a simple vanishing-edge detail set a pool far above its continuously coped peers. But these days, sophisticated customers know good design, and builders won't keep their well-informed clientele if they take the "Sell 'em one of everything!" approach to edge details.

Adorning a vanishing edge is tricky business, but when done judiciously, the results can be astounding. See how Da Vida Pools in Austin, Texas, handles the details in the hilly landscape of Lake Travis.

"Smart engineering was key to the success of this project," says Lisa North, who, with partner Andre Del Re, designed "Comanche" at Lake Travis. "We had a large body of water completely above ground. Since this pool was in the flood plain, we raised the equipment and left the area under the pool and decking open to absorb flooding waters." Precision at grade level was critical in ensuring everything was plumb and level 21 feet above the ground.

That care paid off later when, near the end of the project, the client decided to clad the the pool in 3/8-inch iridescent blue glass mosaic. Says North: "Over 3,000 square feet of mosaic tile was installed, with white grout that exposed every irregularity apparent in the tile's installation - no margin for error."

At night a completely different mood is set with fire that dances along the edge. "Da Vida Pools designed a custom stainless-steel gas burner that hides below the negative edge and shoots flames above," says North. "The wall ignites at the press of a button and has wind and safety sensors as part of the design."

Work With What You Have

For the Oasis project (pictured at left and on page 40), Da Vida started with a house perched 400 feet above Lake Travis with just 30 feet of real estate for the pool. "Our clients wanted a naturalistic pool and spa with a lot of features," says North. That made the aesthetics as challenging as the engineering. Ingenuity was a must on this project.

"Da Vida Pools invented a control box to handle the gas automation, a crane to move rocks inside the pool and a method to recirculate laminar jets which are blown by the wind, just for this pool," says North.

North had a long list of elements to work into this very challenging space: A rock cave, waterfall, laminar jets, beach entry, fiber optics, a bar . . . you get the idea. The design still succeeds in centering on the spectacular view framed by the vanishing edge.

"The shape of the pool followed the curves of the coastline below," says North. She also chose the colors for the pool to match the lake, yielding that classic infinity look. "Because the owners wanted a rock water feature, we created a cave spa on one side of the pool where it didn't interrupt the view. We added 'windows' inside the cave so the view can still be enjoyed from inside."

The contrast between day and night is so dramatic there's a sense of it being a different place. "At the push of a button, the spa's fiber-optic waterfalls turn on, an automated gas fire pit above the spa ignites and fog begins spewing out of the cave and waterfalls. At the other end of the pool, a set of steps wraps around to a cantilevered bar area," North says. "The water falls between the rocks and down the outside wall of the pool to a cantilevered wet deck below." That deck empties into the trough behind the negative edge, which dumps into a tank under the pool. North says the arrangement is more practical than the traditional negativeedge basin for this site.

There's nothing more serene than a well-executed vanishing edge. When clients requests more elements, it takes a clever designer to make it all work.

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