Architecture is more than just the design of the building. It’s the design of how the building fits in the landscape. Mark Kohler, Architect
Modernism and Traditionalism are just steps away from each other at this Vienna Virginia residence. The main house, built by a national homebuilder, draws upon tradition. The pool house, a collaboration between Kohlmark Architects and Surrounds Landscape Architects, speaks the language of minimalism. It presents clean lines and a soaring roofline overhanging tall glass doors and clerestory windows. Instead of clashing, these two architectural styles make visual harmony when viewed from a distance.
Gracefully Designed Transitions
How do these two buildings with such different styles fit on the same lot? It’s because the overall landscape design supports it. Artfully designed terraces initiate a transition from the back door of the house, descend through garden patios to the pool deck and arrive finally at the entrance to the pool house. The movement from main house to pool house is carefully calibrated to develop a relationship between the the two structures rather than force an abrupt change of architectural styles. The plantscaping follows thematically with minimalist, clean lines.
Since I’d worked with them on the front yard, I already knew they weren’t going to like fields of wild flowers and grasses. The look would be clean, geometric and sculpted. They would want a trim clean lined plantscape. Howard Cohen, Landscape Architect
It’s exactly what the clients wanted: “We like very clean lines like you see in Miami. We wanted to see trim hedges and a lot of definition.” They’d have chosen a more contemporary styled house, too, if only they’d been able. The couple spent several years looking for the right house, or the right lot to build a house, with Kohlmark architect Mark Kohler. They settled on this home because they liked the neighborhood and because the lot held great promise for them–not because it spoke to their personal aesthetic.
During a massive renovation that involved multi-story additions to each side of the house, Kohlmark was obliged to follow the traditional aesthetic of the house. But the owners knew they wanted a pool and pool house on the property. So, while they had to go with the flow when renovating the house, they were able to depart from the given aesthetic of the house when they began landscape design. Working with landscape architect Howard Cohen to design the front and back yards, they departed from tradition entirely in the back yard and went all out contemporary.
The Pool House Design Collaboration
Cohen sketched a stone and steel structure with soaring glass walls. Kohler and his team took that idea, detailed it and finished it. The original vision had to be modified slightly due to budgetary constraints. The steel construction required to support glass walls (and the glass!) was daunting. The spirit of the idea, however, lives on in this stylish albeit (slightly) more practical structure. Clean lines. Simple shapes. The design of the pool house draws from the overall landscape design. There is still a lot of glass and soaring interior volume. The pool house includes a full service kitchen/bar, family room, dressing room, bath, storage and what one of the clients describes as “a pretty decent sound system”.
The pool house is the ultimate. We enjoy being out there all year round. It’s a place for us to go and enjoy music with friends. And we are away from the main house, so I can crank up the music as loud as I want and not bother anyone. The Clients
Also, the building was positioned on the property so that its rear wall serves as a privacy screen from the neighboring property. Kohler describes the pool house as “a contemporary jewel box” that fits naturally within the setting of a contemporary styled landscape.
Form Follows Function
We wanted to have a space were our kids would be able to invite their friends over. It was really just about having a friendly environment where we could all just have fun. The Clients
The aesthetics of the landscape design program were for the homeowners, but the purpose of it all was to make a place for friends and family to gather–in particular their three children. They began with a list of practical requirements. They agreed there had to be:
- a yard for running and tossing the football around
- a garden
- basketball court
- swimming pool
- pool house
- grill area and patio space
At the first level, close to the house, is a patio that they use for dining outdoors. A few steps down from there is the middle landing–a walkway that takes you either to the play lawn (down past the pool deck) or through gardens and around to the front of the house. At the lower level are an outdoor kitchen, an outdoor lounge with fire table, the swimming pool and pool house. Beyond that is a playing field and flexible sports court that is a combination basket ball and tennis court. The court is finished with Decoturf multi-sport court surface. The Decoturf material is painted on asphalt. It provides cushioning, is durable and UV resistant, and comes in a variety of bright colors.
Since Surrounds is a landscape design and build firm, we are sensitive to the interplay between form and function, between practical requirements and aesthetic aspirations. If you are looking for a landscape architecture firm with that point of view to help you develop your dream landscape design, we’d love to talk with you. We invite you to contact one of our landscape architects when you feel ready to get the ball rolling.