Award-winning Southern California watershape

Choice Logo120 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the most important architects of the 20th century, created a style defined by extreme clarity and simplicity and was known for his use of the aphorism "less is more."

This is what beautiful pool design is moving toward. This is why this concrete pool and spa by Verdant Custom Outdoors is an AQUA Choice Award winner. This poolscape doesn't flaunt every feature modern pools can be outfitted with, but instead brings together the ideal balance of colors, textures and technology, proving that great watershapes reflect van der Rohe's aesthetic: less really is more.

0108 99"The home, done by local architect Tim Golba of Golba Architecture, is a contemporary interpretation of an Italian villa," says Kate Wiseman, principal designer for the La Jolla, Calif., design/build pool and landscape construction firm. "It's built from split-face concrete block, exotic hardwoods and large glass panels. In designing the pool and spa, preserving the architect's original concept was critical. To do this, we wanted to use very clean lines, and we also wanted to mirror the grace and elegance the house had achieved."

Centered off the home's interior courtyard with a long, straight vanishing edge that takes in the view of San Diego Bay and the city's downtown skyline, this pool has a dark Hydrazzo finish by Aquavations, which allows for reflections and thereby adds to the serenity of the space.

"Unlike many vanishing-edge pools, the coping on this pool does not return at the ends of the vanishing edge," says Wiseman. "This was critical for the clean look we wanted to achieve, but was technically very challenging. To prevent water from spilling out of the boundaries of the lower trough, the water tumbles over a rustic rock water wall. The shotcrete structure was tilted inward and the stones were carefully laid to guide the tumbling water back toward the center of the trough."

The perimeter-overflow spa, which is completely veneered on the interior and exterior in glass tile by Lunada Bay, not only references the form of traditional millstone fountains throughout Europe, it also echoes the shape of the overhang above it, though in reverse. "To achieve the desired effect on the spa, which was to create a gentle trickle of drops off the 2-inch sidewall projection, yet maintain a glass-like mirrored top, meant we had to level the overflow edge to within a 1/32- inch tolerance," says Wiseman.

"Using a rustic glass tile that had natural pitting and variation on the surface added another level of difficulty. To achieve a perfectly level overflow line, we had to painstakingly hand lay every tile, in some cases many times," adds Wiseman. "In most applications, the water flow could have been increased to reach the mirror-top effect. However, increasing the flow would have had a negative impact on the line of drops falling softly from the spa's sidewall projection, which needed the lowest flow possible. The right balance between these two elements required the highest level of craftsmanship. The Pentair variable-speed pumps we used allowed us to calibrate the water flow perfectly to achieve this tricky water-in-transit application."

All of the plantings are drought tolerant, but were carefully chosen for a profusion of flowers. "We used a large variety of plants that are not very common including marmalade bush, yellow oleander, variegated dianella and a variety of Grevillea called Wakiti Sunrise," says Wiseman. "These are paired with more-common but reliable bloomers such as Penstemon, sages and Echium. In order to emphasize the Italian theme of the home and create a greater definition between the home and the public right of way, we installed five 60-year-old field-grown olive trees."

What the judges said:

Nonemaker"This is a great job. It's not over planted; it's not under planted. She even picked up the shape of that overhang and reversed it in the spa."
ROBERT NONEMAKER, principal of Outerspaces, specializing in landscape and watershape design and construction, and Robert Nonemaker Exterior Designs, a watershape consultancy.

White"This project reflects a genuine understanding of the geographic location, the site itself and the architecture of the home, thus elegantly bridging the gap between indoors and out. Beautiful materials are used creatively, yet subtly - especially the glass tiles in the spa and the stone in the wall below the pool. The plantings give the man-made landscape a sense of place, soften the hardscape, create a variety of areas for relaxing outdoors, and provide permeable areas for rainfall to seep naturally back into the ground, rather than funnel into a drainage system."
LEE ANNE WHITE, photographer, landscape designer and writer; former editor-in-chief of Fine Gardening Magazine and author of numerous books including Taunton's Pool Idea Book.

Tisherman"They thought about the shapes in the house, the materials, the color palette. [The designer] didn't try to sell them one of everything. "Look at the honesty of the materials: the slab stone walls with the cap works. The steel schedule is good. The step/bench parallel to the long side of the pool frees up the area to swim. All the lighting and plumbing is in this bench, which is a good use of space. The landscaping is soft, elegant and inviting. The textures work well together. It's just a clean job."
DAVID TISHERMAN, principal and founder of David Tisherman's Visuals, principal and founder of Genesis 3 Design Group, and an award-winning designer and teacher.

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