Reflections: Creating a Pool Barn on Rockport Harbor

When I was asked to design a building, just for fun, around a swimming pool on Rockport Harbor, I couldn’t wait to get started with a computer mouse, and a hammer. I’m a design builder.

These days, ideas fly like the wind between designers and clients. That is, if you’re lucky enough to have a client that is savvy in cyberspace. And I knew I did with this project, I’d worked with Linda, a friend and the client, before.

With an email subject line, “Pool Barn”, we got started. JPEG photos, CAD files sent in PDF format, and blocks of idea-focused text bolted at light speed through our conduit between Washington, D.C., and Rockport.

I love the design process. It starts on a pathway with countless forks ahead. The final destination isn’t often the one first envisioned. How could it? There are things in the woods you won’t see until you’re into the design process. Nobody knows this better than Linda.

The excitement builds when something starts to jell. Our conduit is busy! Floor plans, elevations, photos, emails fly, leaving a lengthy file trail behind. Then suddenly (it seems), there’s a building of pixels on our computer screens that we designed, and we’ve arrived. Linda and I waste very little paper.

The mouse may have replaced the drawing table over the decades, but we use the same hammer today. Building, for me, has remained a more zen-like world. An escape from cyberspace. A builder utilizes a series of personal systems and skills (in actual use or direction), acquired over years of building. Times have changed building, but the process of taking a stack of lumber to a finished building, hasn’t changed all that much. Working with your hands is still a unique reward some of us relish.

This was a favorite project in many ways, not least because my son joined me on his college break and we framed the structure together. Any sized building project’s success is due to the team of people that sees it through to the finish, and my son, like everyone else involved, was the best.

Lines on paper or screen don’t lie, but I’m anxious at various building points to see how the reality compares to that of the plan. Is it what we expected, or hopefully, even better? The building process often reveals a surprise or two,….

Coastal Maine is a unique place for those of us who are “haunted by water.” Water infuses the village here around Rockport Harbor. The ocean is never far off. Even if you can’t see the water, you can see the fog bank it creates as it blows over the village. And a southerly wind brings the water to you always — its wonderful smells and cool moist feeling on your skin.

I was a little surprised to find the water in the swimming pool similarly infusing the area around our building project. I noticed others standing by the pool’s edge, to pause, to think. The sights and muted sounds of moving water have a primeval calming effect on many of us.

Best of all was discovering how the sunlight reflects off the riffles on the pool’s surface throughout the day and paints a moving scene of luminous scale shapes all over the building. I liken it to the sight of a large school of mackerel turning in perfect unison in the sunlight, just below the surface in Rockport Harbor, a pretty common sight.