THE CANVAS: Shifting sand, hurricane-proof masonry, Britain’s sunniest territory

THE PALETTE: Fiberglass with a heart of steel, limestone decking, a planter to break a fall ...and meet a code, shellfish mosaic

THE MASTERPIECE: Secluded retreat, paradise found

Installing a fiberglass pool with a customized vanishing edge onto an expanse of shifting sand requires a design expert and the support of engineers. Bill Shoreman and his team fit the bill.

The senior architect at The Studio Ltd., a high-end, pool-building firm in Hamilton, Bermuda, designs plenty of gunite vanishing-edge vessels. But this project was Shoreman’s first attempt to do it using a prefabricated fiberglass shell.

“I don’t know if [the industry] has ever done anything like this before,” he says. “I know they’ve done simple ones, like a raised spa with an overflow. But this one has a long [vanishing] edge.”

The edge spans 19 1/2 feet to be exact. The pool itself is 15-by-34-feet and appears to melt right into the Atlantic Ocean, offering up an awe-inspiring, panoramic view.

Construction proved to be a challenge. From the excavation on the sandy landfill to designing the hydraulic system so that the flow rate and circulation would be just right, Shoreman had his work cut out for him.

Toughening up

The pool was never intended to be installed on the beach overlooking the ocean. A vanishing-edge design wasn’t in the original plan either.

“It started out as a fiberglass pool to be set in the garden,” says Shoreman, who moved from his native Scotland to Bermuda six years ago and began applying his architectural skills to pool designs. “But as the house started developing and taking shape around him, [the owner] decided he wanted a vanishing edge.”

So Shoreman called the manufacturer and asked if a shell could be created with a vanishing edge built in. The answer was an emphatic “yes.” But Bermuda is often plagued by hurricanes, so the pool needed to be tough enough to survive one. “We were worried about [it] washing out to sea if water got in behind it during a hurricane,” he says. “We had to build a strong edge.”

With help from Shoreman’s structural engineers, his crew built a series of buttresses along the vanishing edge’s perimeter. To reinforce the shell, they used a paint-stripping gun to melt away the foam core in the middle, then replaced it with rebar.

Their efforts paid off. When a hurricane struck two years ago, Shoreman’s pool was one of the few in the neighborhood to survive.

Shifting sands

Once the decision was made to create a vanishing-edge pool on the beachfront, it meant working in sand. First, backfill was brought in. Then the site was leveled and the spot where the shell would go was excavated.

The builders used a crane to move the shell up and down on the sand to create the hole. The next step turned out to be a little tricky: “Once we created the mold within the sand [and set the shell], we backfilled around the pool and filled it with water at the same time,” Shoreman says.

If they hadn’t added the water at this stage, the pressure of the sand would have compressed the shell.

On deck

With the pool in place and filled with water, the crew began constructing the deck and other design features. They first cast a concrete edge around the fiberglass shell so the coping could be laid flat and securely.

A concrete deck was laid down and limestone tiles placed over it. “[The limestone] is similar to the Bermuda stone that we have here,” Shoreman says. “It looks good in this environment.”

The next challenge was to overcome a code requirement that would have destroyed the environment’s aesthetics. The drop-off from the vanishing edge to the ground below was 10 feet. The building code calls for a 3-foot-high railing in such cases to protect people from falling off. But the homeowner didn’t want a railing obstructing the view.

Shoreman’s solution was to create a 7-foot-high planter beneath the vanishing edge and fill it with flowers and other greenery. It reduced the drop from the vanishing edge to just 3 feet, thus eliminating the need for the view-blocking railing.

Due to limited space, another design quirk is the absence of a holding tank — something many vanishing edge pools include. “The vanishing- edge trough is the holding tank,” Shoreman explains.

The project, which cost approximately $118,000, also features perimeter fiberoptic lighting, and automated controllers and chlorinator.

Bill Shoreman, senior architect, The Studio Ltd., Hamilton, Bermuda.
Bill Shoreman, senior architect, The Studio Ltd., Hamilton, Bermuda.