Amsterdam-based NL Architects have recently shared three versions of a project designed for a Canadian entrepreneur on the beach in Florida. If this seems like a strange mix of characters and settings to you, you’re not alone. The collaboration is not a product of rampant globalization, but one of logic. First, pools in Canada are frozen solid year round* so a beach house with a habitable pool had to be built elsewhere. Second, who, other than a Canadian, would scour architecture firms around the world, searching for the firm best equipped to build a nearly tropical beach house and decide to go with a firm in the Netherlands?
Kidding aside, the far flung collaboration has churned out three pool houses where the relationship between the pool and the house is unexpected, but in some ways quite simple. NL Architects have created fluid rooftops before, but never an entire rooftop that is liquid. For their proposals in Florida, the pool is the roof of each version of the project, and not just part of the roof or a roof-top pool… the pool IS the roof.
The first version is relatively straightforward: a rectangular slab of concrete is hoisted in the air and manipulated like fabric, pushed down in graceful curves to divide the program of the house while enjoyed from above as a private outdoor space. In the second version, the house is a meandering ribbion of concrete and glass with the pool resembling a river snaking through the lushly-vegetated site. The final version, called Sawa, was named for and inspired by Balinese terraced rice farms. Water spills over the edge of one pool into the next, making a topography of water across what is essentially a flat site.
To me, these are exciting models and ideas. On a designboom article about the project a few commenters decried the absurdity of the proposals, pointing out the difficulty of realizing the project and how, once built, the project will surely leak. So that’s very helpful, I’m sure that the architects hadn’t considered the potential for leaks. Clearly, these aren’t construction documents and even if zero versions of the project are ever built, it’s nice to imagine that these houses could exist. It’s nice that someone is creating a contemporary alternative the quasi-historic monstrosities that litter expensive beach front real estate. But no matter how nice the effort is, these are still just models; models of a house that is still so far away from the architects and their client.
*I know this is not true. Swimming pools in Canada are only frozen solid for most of the year.