INTO THE WOODS
Crestwood Aquatic Center at Whitecliff Park
In truth, not many swimming pools are usually known for their trees, but Crestwood Aquatic Center at Whitecliff Park in Crestwood, Mo., is especially appreciated by residents for its unique woodsy setting.
"The park atmosphere is what we're most proud of—the fact that we were able to incorporate the trees," says Lisa Blumer, director of parks and recreation. "I think that's probably the best feature. We get a lot of positive comments about it being part of a park."
Situated next to an existing community center in a tree-filled setting, an old 50-meter, L-shaped pool was "in pretty bad shape." The time had come to replace it with a new outdoor family aquatic complex. But planners were very meticulous to preserve that woodland feel.
"The beauty of the original complex was that the old pool backed up to these woods, which are just beautiful, so we tried to recapture that," says Reed I. Voorhees, design principal with Jacobs Facilities Inc. in St. Louis. "We really tried to work with the qualities of the existing site. We wanted to have some grade change and vegetation to make it feel like the woods were coming into the pool area."
The result is an aquatic complex designed into the hillside and integrated with the existing woods to the west while taking advantage of natural contours and allowing superb views to the east.
The facility includes a tot pool carved into the hillside, a small play pool that ties into a 500-foot lazy river, a splashdown pool with a lily pad walk and a 25-yard x 25-meter multipurpose competition pool. The idea was to organize the pools by activity type and target age groups.
Great care was taken to save existing trees and to let some pool elements—like the lazy river, water slide and paths—feel incorporated into the woods. Furthermore, special fencing with a transparent quality was used to encircle the aquatic complex. The fence visually disappears from a distance, enhancing views from the pool deck while also eliminating any visible barrier between the woods and the pool complex.
"I don't think we knew how great it would be until we were done," Blumer says of the fence's vanishing act.
As the gateway to the new facility, the bathhouse sets the tone with its unfussy forms and detailing. As one enters the park, the building looks like a garden wall, clearly defining the progression into the pool area.
"We wanted to keep it less of a building and more an element of entry—very simple like a garden wall," Voorhees says. "It's very clean and timeless in a sense, and we were drawing from some of the existing materials of the site like the community center and a historical site wall."
The new bathhouse is not meant to be competitive but compatible with the neighboring community center.
"I think the main thing is it's complementary," Blumer says. "It's a very clean building with clean lines."
Translucent polycarbonate wall panels flood the bathhouse with controlled natural light, minimizing the need for artificial lighting in the locker rooms and office areas. At night these panels are lit from within as the building facade is lit from the ground to produce a dramatic beacon effect.
A large canopy can shelter patrons during inclement weather, while wave-shaped shade structures help craft a dynamic and playful environment as well as offer a break from the Missouri sunshine.
"They're in line with the aquatic theme, like waves in a sense and somewhat timeless," Voorhees says. "We tend to think of the best design as being timeless rather than stylistic."
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