A Bespoke Shell Design
Inspiration for this project came from the client, when she imagined somewhere beautiful for her grandchildren to go swimming while visiting on holiday. From there, a spectacular vision blossomed: a pool house, set in the woodland away from the main house, comprising (amongst other features) two main pools – one inside, one outside.
The oval indoor pool was to be connected to the freeform outdoor pool by a swim-through channel, separated by a motorised, vertically-sliding door that would exclude cold air during winter. The client intended to make an alluring showcase of this passageway; the look of which came from a beautiful twelve-inch silver platter she had seen in Asia. It led to a dramatic concept: a large sculptural shell to hang over the channel entrance.
Some lateral thinking
Craig Bragdy joined the project (introduced by the pool builder, Platinum Aquatech) after several attempts by others at building a shell had failed, largely owing to engineering difficulties. The challenge was to make something that had the delicate look of a natural shell, but which was also strong enough to overhang the pool (a difficulty compounded by the limited space and lack of structural support). Once it became clear that traditional masonry materials would not be suitable, the solution was found in using boat-building techniques. The shell itself would be built around pairs of protruding steel spars, secured to stainless steel bolts. One-inch fibreglass was then hand fitted around the spars, and tapered at the edge for a better finish. Importantly, the fibreglass was textured in order to grip the tiles that would be fitted back at Craig Bragdy.
Production and installation
Carpenters produced a wooden replica of the fibreglass shell around which the clay would be shaped and then cut into tiles. The inside finish would be the milky mother-of-pearl appearance of a real shell, a contrast to the coarser, barnacle-encrusted outside with the lip of the shell being kept as delicate as possible. The finished tiles were then fitted to the fibreglass shell before it was shipped to the site and installed in three days, where it remained covered while the rest of the pool house was completed.
Years after her vision was achieved, the client and her grandchildren are still very happy, swimming through the beguiling shell channel even throughout the winter months. They had also discovered a wonderful hidden detail. The shell created a beautifully atmospheric acoustic that echoed with every stroke, splash and dip of the swimmer – all adding to the magic of the client’s concept.