Today's water shapes are nothing like yesterday's swimming pools. They truly are individual works of art.
Text by Melinda Kroll
A swimming pool is more than a rectangle plopped in the midst of your backyard -- at least it should be. Sophisticated homeowners thoughtfully combine aesthetics, placement and use of interesting materials with the architectural style of their home to create an oasis that complements their lifestyle. This approach is called "water shaping."
"I see it as art, specifically, swimming pool as art," says Dave Wettig, owner of an award-winning, professional watershape design and construction firm outside of Chicago. "It's the art of creating a shape, form and function to water."
A water shape is a magnet. It's one of those places where people like to gather. And while homeowners may think they want a pool because of its beauty and tranquility, it's more likely due to the pleasure friends and family derive from it.
"Decades ago, homeowners may have opted for a pool to keep up with the Joneses," says Wettig. "Today, a pool is a great way to make sure a family stays together -- a way to entice kids back home from college or grandchildren over in the summertime. It's the ultimate gathering place."
And it's not just the motivation behind building a swimming pool that's changed. Swimming pools used to range from depths of 3 feet to 9 feet, and it was criminal if your pool didn't have a diving board or a slide. Today's pools range in shape and depth based on function.
"For example, if the primary use of the pool will be volleyball, we'll configure the pool with two shallow ends," says Wettig. "If it will be used to entertain friends and extended family, we design it with a variety of places to sit -- cut outs, swim outs, grottos and steps outside of the main pool."
The function, as well, as a homeowner's architectural style of residence, site conditions (is the terrain flat or rolling) and aesthetics (classic Greek or Roman rectangular watershapes vs. more contemporary designs) assure that no two pools are alike.
There are a number of factors to consider before adding a water shape to your home. First, eliminate any preconceived notions you may have about what you want. "Oftentimes, people think they want a 20' by 30' rectangle that's 3-to-9-feet deep, because that's what their parents had," said Wettig. "In reality, they could have a much smaller pool -- about 560 square feet -- that will actually have more areas where people sit and relax in the water. Benches, swim outs, steps -- there are a variety of options."
Second, it's important to be realistic about the intricacies of pool construction. Many homeowners want the pool to simply materialize before their very eyes, believing it to be a quick and easy process. "And it might be," agrees Wettig. "It all depends on the land. They might have a backyard with grade differentials that require shaping the earth and cutting down the site. If they have irregular topography, we may need to retain soils here and there."
Third, it's important to consider the value of technology in managing the water shape. The good news is that pools are easier to maintain. The bad news is that these technologies aren't cheap.
For example, there's a chlorine-salt generator that literally transforms salt into chlorine, so you don't have to add chlorine to the water by hand. "There's also a robot --a sort of state-of-the-art vacuum -- that works independently of the pool system," says Wettig. "It functions similarly to the vacuums of yesterday but does it faster and more effectively.
Homeowners tend to have a "we'll wait and add that later" attitude about these technologies, which often proves more difficult and cumbersome in the long term.
Finally, don't make price the most important consideration. "Many people seek the lowest price they can find without thinking, 'I'm going to be in this home for another 10 years--is the price I'm paying going to yield 10 years of enjoyment?' It's like putting an addition on your home -- you don't just slap it together as inexpensively as possible; you take the time and spend the money to make it inviting--to make it look like it's part of your home. The same should be true for a water shape."
Today's water shapes are nothing like yesterday's swimming pools. "They truly are individual works of art," says Wettig. "The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination."
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