The shape of water
What better way to relax and recharge than in the haven of your own private pool. Richard Dunnett explores the Zen-like wonder of the most beautiful pools in the world
Immersed shoulder height within the stillness and seclusion of a tepid infinity pool – is there a more relaxing way to enjoy an ocean view on a warm day? Every now and again we discover a beachside bolthole whose pool captivates us to a point where we are seemingly at one with the never-ending turquoise and deepest hue of blue beyond. Done properly, the infinity pool will charm not only through its sweeping vistas but also with its ability to delicately nudge jigsaw-like into its surroundings.
Often it is the eco-minded vision of the proprietor of these gorgeous getaways who we have to thank for such sympathy towards the natural beauty on which they sit.
Such harmony is often purely down to the vision of the owner, and one such talent is environmental philanthropist Isabella Goldsmith, who worked with architect Manolo Mestre at her boutique hotel Las Alamandas, Mexico to create an infinity pool that blends seamlessly with the ocean beyond. Goldsmith, daughter of the late British financier Sir James Goldsmith, inherited a wild and beautiful tract of land between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo along the famed Costalegre Coast from her grandfather, “Bolivian Tin King” Don Antenor Patiño. Inspired by her desire to preserve the pristine environment, she created Las Alamandas, a 16-suite boutique resort that has become one of Mexico’s most famous and exclusive luxury hideaways.
Smaller pools dot the larger casitas at Las Almandas, while Goldsmith, who has spearheaded projects to protect and preserve the Mexican coastline, also added a charming palapa (gazebo) to provide a sheltered spot to relax and enjoy her private beach. These enticing images are but a drop in the metaphorical ocean of the 200-plus photographs, which appear in the delicious new book Splash: The Art of the Swimming Pool. This coffee-table celebration is a love letter to the pool adorned with hundreds of enchanting shots by photographer Tim Street-Porter. Writer Annie Kelly delves into the history of the pool, from the Great Bath at the site of Mohenjo-Daro in modern-day Pakistan to the emergence of the infinity pool, but it's the contemporary marvels – including architectural feats owned by figures as diverse as Cher and Frank Lloyd Wright – that are the publication's mainstay.
As Kelly affirms, the swimming pools at the Amankila hotel in Bali are world famous, as they step down the slope with a magnificent view of the ocean beyond. American architect Ed Tuttle was inspired by Balinese rice fields when he created this three-tiered set of infinity pools overlooking the ocean, furnished at each end by gazebos filled with plumped cushions. They are decidedly delectable and an ode to what a Zen-like retreat should look like.
The sublimely elegant infinity pool at the Ocean Castle Tigre del Mar in Careyes, Mexico, was designed by Gian Franco Brignone, an Italian banker who five decades ago bought 25,000 acres of Pacific Ocean-fronted forest reserve and transformed it into one of the world's most elegant, eccentric and cosmopolitan refuges.
Sprinkled alongside nine miles of pristine white sand are 50 villas of architectural merit, art and sculpture that have served as backdrop to iconic images known the world over: Bruce Weber shot Calvin Klein Obsession adverts here, Patrick Demarchelier photographed Christie Brinkley, and Cindy Crawford posed nude for Herb Ritts.
One property, the seven suite Castle Tigre Del Mar is devised of three separate structures echoing the form of the bow of a ship and boasting panoramic ocean views. Outside the near all-white interior and beside the vibrant blue textured exterior lies the first of two infinity pools with a medieval labyrinth (copied from Chartres cathedral in France) which enhances this glamorous getaway’s air of mystery. Water babies rejoice.
First published in Luxury Plus magazine.