For this project, designer Bill Bauer wanted swimmers to feel as if they were suspended over the cliffs. He treated the far end of the pool as a liquid overlook, with two floating teak chaise lounges built into the edge wall.
“If I could be anywhere on this property, I’d be hanging out at the end of the pool, looking down and out, hearing the water flow over the edge,” says Bauer, a landscape architect and vice president of Gardens in Austin, Texas. “I wanted a way for people to stay there without treading water or hanging onto the [overflow beam] stone.”
Bauer broke a cardinal rule of vanishing-edge design for this project. It’s the one that states you should not obstruct the visual flow from the weir wall to the horizon. But the designer wanted to try something different. The result is masterful: Slatted rectangular lounge chairs seem to hang suspended in that beautiful, mysterious space where pool and horizon meet.
“I’d never seen an example where people were encouraged to be at that interface [of water and sky],” he says.
More importantly, the lounges add dimension. They are suspended a mere 2 inches above the water by stainless steel brackets, creating the impression that they are two levitating planes. The pool itself looks like a floating mirror thanks to its total-perimeter vanishing edge and dark gray finishing materials.
To cap the bond beam, Bauer acquired a Belgian limestone originally used for ballast on spice-trading ships 200 years ago. “It just wouldn’t have been the same with a brand-new stone,” he says. “Every stone has its own character.”
To hoist the pool 37 feet above a cliff, Jim Mowry, owner of Master Pools of Austin/Mowry Pools, built a concrete “box” containing eight piers. The piers were dug 7 feet into rock by hand with air hammers.
Mowry and a soil specialist examined the cliff to find a strata deep enough to accommodate the piers. “The first layer was about 2 feet thick, the next one about 18 inches and then the third was about 4 feet,” he says. “We went down to about the middle of that.”
This structure supports four 16-by-30-inch grade beams, which span the entire length of the pool. “There’s enough concrete and steel through the grade beams [so] it would hang there even if the piers and retaining walls were swept away somehow,” Mowry says. He also placed a double curtain of No. 5 and No. 4 rebar in the floor and walls.
Creating 176 lineal feet of vanishing edge posed somewhat of a challenge. Some of the bond-beam stone had to be ground level because it was so old. Mowry also crafted the hydraulic system with a 69-foot-long catch basin around the exposed side of the vanishing edge.
“It was a complex task, but that’s what makes it fun,” Mowry says.