Indoor Lap Pool Building
project name : Indoor Lap Pool Building
location : Kent, Connecticut
year of design: 1993-1994
client: Name with held at owner’s request
architect: George Ranalli
associates: Robert Silman Structural Engineer
design team: John Butterworth, Nathaniel Worden
photographer: Model Photos: George Ranalli
The residents of Litchfield County, Connecticut occupy an enclave of hardwood and pine forests that rise to wooded hills, with a central valley, tranquil lakes, and wide-open sky. The area is home to a community of sculptors, painters, musicians, and writers. One resident, a novelist, who swims as physical therapy for a chronic back problem, commissioned a pool house adjacent to an eighteenth century clapboard farmhouse, on 25 acres, bordered by low walls of dry stone. Writing for long hours, the owner wanted the lap-pool room to be as open and exciting as possible for his mandatory swimming ritual.
From the main house, a footpath leads through a large field of wildflowers and mature trees to the writer’s office, another old building, once the chicken coop. Extending from the office, the new building lies between old stonewalls. The buildings of the whole complex thus complement each other in a dialogue of new and old.
The design for a new 1,350-square-foot pool house provided room for a 66-foot swimming pool, dressing area, and Jacuzzi plunge bath, all accessible through the eastern side of the rectangular structure. As one enters the new building, the pool extends the length of the space, pressed to the windowless west side. The pool house features large skylights and East-facing windows and pivot doors that provide the owner with expansive views of sky and the historic site’s open landscape. The stepped cross-section of the interior roof maintains ample height above both the pool and the walking lane beside it, while the centric skylights over the plunge pool impart a feeling of stability to the space.
The building is designed to explore the various conditions of wood frame construction and wood cladding on both the exterior and interior. A roof of sheet copper over horizontal Douglas fir boardand- batten accommodates the east side’s wide composition of windows and pivot doors. Since the road is extremely near on the west side, the owner required that side be closed down, so the west elevation shows only the wood cladding and roof. Inside, the design of the large windows and pivot doors explores what is possible with wood framing and gives the owner an expansive view of the landscape while swimming. As the interior system of marine plywood sheets (from a durable, fast-growing tropical hardwood) meets the external board and batten, the windows and doors absorb and join these movements.
An interior palate of honey-colored marine plywood and travertine stone tile echoes the subtle hues and sumptuous textures of the natural landscape. The building’s mass is a response to climatic necessity, and the number of openings is restricted so as not to cause large heat loss in winter or difficulty cooling in summer.