Award-winning custom spa project in Santa Cruz, Calif.

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I think the human body underwater is beautiful," said Ed Rust's client. "Can you build a clear acrylic hot tub?" Rust, who is known as Dr. Spa and runs a Santa Cruz, Calif., business by that name thought to himself, "Wow . . . expensive . . . inefficient . . . never been done. No!" And then the seasoned professional said to the client, "Wow . . . expensive . . . inefficient . . . never been done . . . well, OK."

The client eventually lost interest but Rust was intrigued by the challenge and pushed on alone, eventually creating what he has dubbed the Luminous Ofuro.

The objective was to create a stylish, transparent hot tub with structural integrity and contemporary automation, while maintaining some degree of energy efficiency - all within the confines of an average backyard.

"I was challenged immediately with manipulating hundreds of pounds of Plexiglas sheeting into a durable, watertight vessel, then supporting it, then plumbing it and beautifying it with the functions and features we've come to expect from a high-end spa," says Rust.

The 700-gallon transparent tank has two filters and three pumps: a 1/8 horsepower, a 1 horsepower and a 1 and 1/2 horsepower. The decking is fashioned of ipé and the spa is trimmed with nautical-style brass fittings. Rust figures the project cost about $20,000 including the accessories, labor and crane service.

"I'd describe the outcome as nothing short of a miracle," says Rust. "A unique, reflective soaking tank that combines the simplicity of a Japanese ofuro with the allure of tropical aquaria and the sophistication of modern portable spas."

The Judges:

Nonemaker"I would give this guy an award because it's just so far out. It's one of those things where I wonder if it's going to work next year because you don't really know how it was built, but you've got to give the guy some credit for creativity. This is a wonderfully creative solution to meeting clients' wants and needs."
ROBERT NONEMAKER, principal of Outerspaces, specializing in landscape and watershape design and construction, and Robert Nonemaker Exterior Designs, a watershape consultancy.

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"It would be interesting to find out what he went through to do this. What went wrong? What went right? How is it holding up over time?"
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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