million dollar rooms Tag

Opening A Shell

By James Atlas

Final Installment

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Boundless Intricacy

As you might also recall from the February 2008 feature, figuring out how to separate the indoor and outdoor pools proved to be a surprising challenge.

The swim channel under the clamshell was intended to allow easy access between the two pools, but the client (who knows as well as anyone how raw the winters can get in the Chicago area) wanted to be able to close the channel off when the weather turned cold.

That seemingly direct thought resulted in a three-year odyssey that led us to multiple engineers and system fabricators in quest of a workable solution. The irony is, what now appears to all the world to be a simple, retractable acrylic panel – perhaps the least visually arresting element in the entire project – was by far the most difficult effect to achieve.

For nearly six years, this was a project that occupied most of James Atlas' working life, challenging him and the staff at Platinum Poolcare Aquatech with pursuing development of a watershape complex marked by great ambition, shifting needs and innumerable revisions. Now that his work is complete and the site is finally ready for its close-ups, Atlas guides us through a masterpiece he justly sees as his firm's crowning achievement.

Opening AShell

By James Atlas

Roberts Lo 034Most of the time, residential construction projects that stretch beyond a half-decade in the making involve significant delays or work stoppages. The project pictured here known hereabouts as "The Shell Pool"– took nearly six years to complete, and what's unusual about it is that it was basically a continuous effort. Even when we weren't on site, seldom did a day go by when we weren't deeply involved on some level in design work, engineering and/or project planning.

Now that it's finished, I can say without hesitation that this was the most detailed, refined, all-consuming project we at Platinum Poolcare Aquatech of Wheeling, Ill., have ever tackled. I can't begin to calculate the collective number of hours spent in client and staff meetings, phone conversations, skull sessions and design-revision meetings – and that doesn't include time spent on site in bringing this amazing project to fruition.

Even compared to the many intricate commercial projects we've worked on through the years, this one set a new standard in my experience with respect both to the spirit of innovation and the mountains of patience required to get the job done. Today, with all that effort behind us, it's a rare pleasure to step back and get an overview of what we've accomplished – a pleasure I'd like to share with you here.

This is Part II of long article which was originally featured in a 2009 issue of Watershapes Magazine. They ran the lengthy treatise in two large parts: The first one outlined the planning and actual construction of this elaborate project, and the second took more of a photographic look at the finished product. We will feature excerpts from these articles as a 13-part serial. We will include an embedded video in each of the serial postings of HGTV's Million Dollar Rooms, in which the project was featured.

hgtv swimming poolShell Games

by

James

Atlas

©2009 WaterShapes. Reproduced by permission.

PART II

 

The process of building the indoor pool was complicated by the fact that, in addition to the shell for the pool itself, we were also setting up the adjacent spa and wading pool as well as the swim channel and the support for a clamshell detail of an as-yet-undetermined nature. It was, simply put, a complex forming process and shoot

Coming to Terms 

As one example of just how creatively ambitious she could be, one of the bathrooms in the pool house is painted from floor to ceiling with a mural of a fox hunt: Every person in the painting is a family member,with the visual space separated between the living and the departed. This level of expression reaches throughout the project, as evidenced by another spectacular detail in the form of a ceiling painting above the indoor pool that features accurate renderings of constellations lit with fiberoptic stars.

But the pool house also was to have a utilitarian side, including a full kitchen, laundry facilities, vast amounts of custom woodwork, 18th-century stained-glass windows imported from England and an elevator. Suffice it to say, this was a client who observed no limits when it came to doing as she pleased.

At first, our scope of work was limited to an indoor swimming pool to be installed inside the pool house as well as a freeform outdoor pool. But that was just the beginning, and before long the project grew to include multiple watershapes and a long list of design details. Even for a firm that specialized in outsized projects, this soon became one of the most challenging we'd ever tackled: Truly, it pressed us to our creative and technical limits.

In addition to the two pools,we eventually were engaged to design and install an indoor spa, wading pool and fountain as well as an exterior wading pool and spa, an outdoor hot/cold therapy pool, a waterfall, a swim-in sauna and a sliding acrylic door that was to separate the indoor and outdoor pools – this last being by far the toughest single element of the project. The outdoor pool was to have a vanishing edge, extensive rockwork and various sculptural, lighting and fire features. The vanishing-edge basin alone became so large that it is essentially a watershape unto itself.

And those were just the key physical features: In addition to those large tasks,we also tackled a seemingly endless string of small details, from extraordinarily elaborate tile mosaics including a coral reef and "cave paintings"in the sauna to a massive, all-tile clamshell that cantilevers over one end of the indoor swimming pool.

All of this had to be engineered and built by a company familiar with complex structural issues, construction techniques and hydraulic efficiencies. And everything was made even more challenging by the fact that success was a moving target: The project went through numerous design iterations through the years, and those of us who stuck with the project for the duration (basically us and the general contractor) had to deal with a steadily changing cast of contractors and subcontractors.

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 Once we were done with the shell of the indoor pool and its associated waterfeatures, we stepped aside so the pool house could be built over and around what we'd done.

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