Liquid Escapes

Read how stimulating waterscapes are becoming the norm for hotels, country clubs and municipalities.

By Carol Anderson and Michelle Schwartz | 2008
Resort and Recreation

When it comes to swimming pools, design has been revolutionized over the last 30 years. Even the term swimming pool has become passé, with resorts adopting new monikers such as water amenity and aquatic centers.  As fierce competitors vie for discretionary leisure spending, stimulating waterscapes have become the norm not only for four- and five-star resorts, but increasingly for hotels, country clubs and municipalities, too.

New designs, supported by a greater range of products, have made it achievable to build ever more engaging facilities. These liquid escapes create inspiring environments for guests to dive into, splash around in, or relax by.

Blending In or Standing Out

Destination resorts often have pools that blend with their exquisite architecture and landscapes. Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Palm Springs, Calif., is a good example of referencing imaginative features with the rustic beauty of nature. The waterscape is in tune with its desert appeal of breathtaking mountain views, botanical cactus gardens, and warm Mediterranean Colonial architecture.  Tranquil and adventurous aquatic amenities amidst waterslides and waterfalls are set in a palm tree rockscape. A freeform leisure pool refreshes travelers while unpredictable fountains and sprays cool the youngest guests.

The term boutique hotel is used to describe intimate, luxurious hotel environments that differentiate themselves from the norm. The Joule Urban Resort, a 1927 art deco building in downtown Dallas, has a pool cantilevered off the 10th level outdoor terrace. Guests plunge into the glass-ended pool for a stunning underwater view of the cityscape below.

Location, although important, isn’t necessarily everything, as themed waterscapes define new environments. They can include geographical features specific to a region or imported elements as an escape that embraces culture, wildlife or unique geological formations.  Color themes can lend an impression, such as blue and yellow for a French Riviera theme. In addition, murals, trompe l’oeil, tile mosaics and other rich finishes can further enhance guest experiences.

Be Considerate

Even the most creative design is successful only when the end user is the focus of planning. The organization and interrelation of water is critical; i.e, pools designed for romping and splashing should not interfere with adults using hydrotherapy and spa amenities. Depending on the site, changes in vertical elevation may enhance multi-water use and provide convenient and visually appealing functional separation.

The hot mineral pools at Old Town Hot Springs in the heart of Steamboat Springs, Colo., have a waterscape in symphony with its quiet snow-covered hillsides, creeks and streams.  The renovation of the 100-year-old spring-fed pools included the addition of a redesigned hot water spring, sensitively designed waterslides, an activity pool, and two hydrotherapy spas set in a naturalistic rocky setting to reflect the three-dimensional beauty of the magnificent natural topography.

Across the Pond

If you’re looking for the latest in aquatic innovation, look to Europe, where these trends are emerging.

  • Adventure showers entice guests to unwind in lush tropical vegetation with soft waterfalls and fog jets.  Other unique showers provide warm downpours during a meadow thunderstorm complete with artificial thunder and lightening.
  • Salt-water grottos offer concentrated saline baths enriched with salt from the Dead Sea. The waterscape offers a soft play of atmospheric underwater lights and music where guests can weightlessly float in a unique state of balance; a real elixir for the stressed body and soul.
  • Sauna gardens with aromatic scents of eucalyptus, spruce and mint extracts evoke a sense of fascination, stimulation, beauty, and contemplation with ergonomically shaped loungers and meditative music.
  • Snow rooms offer guests a place to roll in man-made snow following the use of a hot sauna or other type of steam room for a unique revitalization.

Kids Count

As more adult-oriented amenities are incorporated into waterscapes, children aren’t being left out. Large play structures themed as water jungles, pirate coves, and Mayan temples offer physical fitness and imaginative games.

The new Lions Spray Park in Cheyenne, Wyo., welcomed inaugural guests with jumping jets of shooting streams of water, directional jets sending water arches outward 10 to 20 feet, and ground aerator sprays producing large eruptions of foamy water while the Deck Pop Jet discharged a ball of water directly into the air. Pine trees lend a dramatic backdrop while rockscaping creates an adventurous setting where youngsters zip around the 17 play structures.

Waterslides can be outrageously fun, but older kids are looking for excitement that transcends these industry staples. True wave pools, those that can develop surfable waves, consume vast tracks of land and considerable resources. The advent of static wave generators, such as FlowRider, can provide challenging, even cult-status entertainment that users will come back to again and again.

Waterscape wonderlands, whether adventurous for the young or rejuvenating for the not so young, provide hours of entertainment, relaxation, and the experience of togetherness for indelible memories in a world beyond our everyday lives.