Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Caliza Pool, Alys Beach, FL

Architect: Khoury & Vogt Architects, Alys Beach, FL; Marieanne Khoury-Vogt and Erik Vogt, principals in charge

General Contractor: EGCD Construction, Panama City Beach, FL




Public Spaces – Parks, Plazas, Gardens & Streetscapes

Winner: Khoury & Vogt Architects

Pool of Radiance

By Eve M. Kahn

A history-redolent yet unprecedented pool complex has risen at the edge of a resort town near Panama City, on Florida’s Panhandle. For the second consecutive year, a building at this resort, Alys Beach, has won a Palladio Award. Both winners were designed by the town architects, Khoury & Vogt Architects (KVA). The principals, Marieanne Khoury-Vogt and Erik Vogt, have been helping build out Alys Beach since Miami-based Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company finalized the community’s New Urbanist master plan in 2003. DPZ has envisioned a 158-acre mixture of radiating streets, parks and parkways, criss-crossed by pedestrian paths and sleepy lanes.

Last year, KVA won a Palladio for Fonville Press, Alys Beach’s 650-sq.ft. combination of café, newsstand, bookshop, and wine and tapas bar. (See Traditional Building, June 2008, page 22.) Fonville, the town’s incubator commercial and civic hub, has thick stuccoed walls, numerous fountains, and shady wood trellises and bamboo awnings. This year’s Palladio recipient, Caliza Pool, is as multi-purpose and naturally cooled as Fonville, but on a grander footprint of 47,300 sq.ft. That’s not to suggest, however, that there’s anything grandiose about Caliza Pool. The trapezoidal site, at the town’s northern border, overlooks a 20-acre nature preserve with wetlands and longleaf pine forest. Within the trapezoid, Khoury-Vogt says, “one of the primary design concepts was to create as many moods as possible.”

Renters and homeowners can spend their days choosing between half-a-dozen cozy or expansive spots to relax. KVA, inspired by ancient Greek stoas (sheltered, partly enclosed colonnades), filled the pool grounds with loggias and open-roofed atria. The structures surround a central elliptical pool of saltwater, 100 ft. long, set flush with a flagstone deck. On the pool’s broad horseshoe-shaped stairs, steel volute-pattern railings are reminiscent of Hollywood Regency mansions. At Caliza’s 75-ft.-long rectangular lap pool, complete with iPod dock and a side wall of bamboo groves, ebonized Spanish cedar purlins form a trelliswork ceiling. At a children’s pool along the compound’s northern edge, a raised stone rim doubles as a bench for foot-dippers, and cloth canopies billowing from masts reduce the quantity of sunblock that parents have to dole out frantically during Florida summers.

KVA also specified shade trees by the dozens. Hammocks and canopied wicker daybeds are tucked under clusters of palms, and a wall of cypresses envelops a scalloped-edge spa pool. An allée of oaks shelters a lawn full of S-shaped concrete chaises longues, which KVA based on Le Corbusier’s iconic tubular-steel models. The ergonomic concrete versions, Khoury-Vogt says, “are really quite comfortable, with or without pillows, even for sitting and reading there all day.”

Most of the buildings – including the bar, two bathhouses and a semicircle of six cabanas with enclosed private gardens – are cubic in shape. “We took archetypal forms and kept paring them down as much as possible, within the scale of a civic building,” Vogt explains. “We stayed close to classic types, the timeless architecture of Mediterranean cultures, to conjure up memories. Yet we tried to float above precedents. There are no direct quotes, no direct stylistic references, except for the Moorish arches on the entry loggia.”

The entry loggia has one of Caliza’s few turreted roofs: a quartet of tapered towers rises over a rooftop garden with views of the Gulf of Mexico, the town and the nature preserve. There’s just one other non-flat roofline: scalloped parapets and four hemispherical urns crown a pool equipment building that has a fountain cascading down zigzagging troughs on one façade.

Caliza’s otherwise flat roofs of concrete slurry, Khoury-Vogt says, “are monolithic. They give heft to these small, low buildings. And they create a seamless connection with the walls,” which are mostly coated in steel-troweled stucco. Executed by A & S Stucco of Panama City Beach, the walls “capture and reflect light in a beautiful way,” she adds.

The other dominant material at Caliza Pool is Dominican shellstone, a close relative of limestone (the pool’s namesake – Caliza is a Spanish word for limestone). The architects applied tawny-gray shellstone from Dominican quarry Marmotech to the pool deck and its perforated gutter, and incorporated the stone into façades, interior walls, fountains and shelves.

A few patches of vibrant color enliven the serene stone palette. The bar top is a slab of green marble, and the bar’s back wall is clad in Cuban cement tile (from Dominican source Aguayo Tile) in pale-green floral patterns. Swaths of green and blue glass mosaic surround sinks in the bathhouses, and the restaurant’s dining niches are tinted lemony yellow (thanks to integrally colored plasterwork from Brandilee Designs in Panama City).

Craft Design of Santa Rosa Beach, FL, designed the interiors, and the landscape was by Kendall Horne, Alys Beach, FL. The general contractor was EGCD Construction, Panama City Beach, FL, and the developer was EBSCO Gulf Coast Development, Alys Beach, FL.

Although the $6 million pool complex looks luxurious, it is actually cost-effective and environmentally-friendly: no HVAC is required except in the restaurant kitchen. Instead of doors that would block breezes, the bathhouses and dining niches have curtains made from stainless-steel bead strands, which kids like to run through their fingers, weave, knot or let sway and spill like rainwater. Breezes also pour in through unglazed windows fitted with wooden grilles (from E. F. San Juan, Inc., of Youngstown, FL) in a traditional Indo-Asian vein, and hot air is evacuated via attic spaces with wide filigrees of cylindrical ceramic tiles.

“We were constantly conscious of keeping air moving through,” Khoury-Vogt says. “Fortunately we had the benefit of the natural Gulf breezes. The whole place stays cool, even in August. People appreciate that. And they love the sound of water falling from the different fountains, the views of the Gulf, the town, the preserve, the contrast everywhere of the green landscape against white walls. The locals have also become quite attached to it, not just the renters and owners – the restaurant is open to the public in the evenings, and Caliza has been used for a number of events.”

The town has hosted an annual arts competition called “Digital Graffiti”: artists from around the world project digital stills and videos onto the white walls and rooftops of Alys Beach. “It’s amazing,” Khoury-Vogt says, “how all the patterns and colors can briefly transform this place that we know so well.”  



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