There are a lot of parts to this project. It has a pool, cabana with full kitchen, fireplace, gazebo, formal statuary with reflecting pool, fire pit, hot tub, outdoor barbecue, wood-fired pizza oven, sunken grotto and a good deal of space for entertaining, all combined and compressed into a relatively small, upscale suburban environment.
In addition, perched atop all of that, so to speak, there is an astonishing piece of backyard art — a painting made of rock, leaf, water and bronze — this year's AQUA Choice winner in the water feature category.
The centerpiece of the feature is a watercourse flowing around a bronze statue of a girl, one leg crossed under her, the other dangling over the weir. She may be lost in introspection, she may simply be wondering what's for lunch, but whatever her mood, it seems in perfect accord with her green, watery domain.
The water flows past her on both sides, tickling her ankle as it descends in two sets of waterfalls, flowing down to meet up again in a reflecting pool that flows inside the cave. This is accessible by a knee wall that wraps inside the grotto and terminates at a "weeping wall," installed to allow for a pleasant trickling noise.
Elsewhere on the site, water moves around the major functional elements, dropping from catchpools and rippling along streambeds amid exquisite rockwork, such as we have come to expect from Tumber. Frame it down with your hands and ask yourself if you're looking at a shot from a Canadian National Park or someone's backyard. It's hard to say for sure.
A cedar gazebo obscures the source of an extensive water feature that begins on the far side of the design and works its way to the foreground through four separate ponds and two merging watercourses. The rivers dance around a sunken hot tub that the clients must access via a bridge made of matching recycled barn timbers.
Access to the pizza grotto comes by crossing one of two bridges that span the two separate rivers and koi ponds. These were constructed of rough cut timbers to match the supporting recycled antique barn beam posts of the grotto, which enhance the idea of being in an old abandoned cave.
As captivating and sensual as this waterscape may be, this project could win a major award based purely on its technical merit. Various pumps dispatch up to 850 gallons of water down these channels every minute, and each one is crafted and shaped and tuned by the builder to produce a desired effect and engineered to perform under all possible conditions. As Randy Tumber explains:
These features were to be usable all year around, which meant creating elements that were freeze proof and low maintenance. The desire was to build an elaborate water feature that the client could simply turn on and off at will without any associated plumbing or electrical issues.
We always strive to make even complex systems straightforward and simple to use for clients. Therefore it was our desire to implement all of the necessary systems in this landscape into one automated solution.
While it is relatively commonplace in large-scale commercial applications to design and engineer your water feature systems from the ground up, this is rarely seen in a residential setting. Although budgets and time constraints usually preclude taking this route, this project required it. As the project evolved and became more elaborate we saw the necessity of incorporating more energy-efficient systems and controls for its final success.
As all of the watercourses were to be combined, additional storage was needed for all of the water in transit that could not be contained in the lower pond once the system powered down or to accommodate storm surge. Also, to achieve the desired maximum flow of 850 gpm, the pumps would need a large surge tank and 6-inch plumbing to allow enough water to be available on demand when ramping up to higher settings.
It became necessary to build a full-scale mock-up of the grotto waterfalls to establish a correct flow and weir width, height and profile, and to maintain the integrity of the cascade, as the position of the statue midstream and its dangling leg and foot tended to compromise the water curtain's consistency. Seeing the big picture as the designer or builder allows you to get the details right.
The entire system including pool, stereo, lighting and water feature are monitored and controlled by one home automation system using a touchpad in the kitchen, handheld devices or via the Internet.
Physically "tuning" the waterfalls for acoustics and introducing aquatic plants and fish were all icing on the cake. Offering an entire outdoor package and being the first and last on-site offers distinct advantages over your competitors. Striking possibilities open up for your clients. Having the ability to fine-tune the concluding details may elevate the project from the monotonous to the magical, which ultimately should be our collective goal.
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Tumber & Associates
Category: Water feature
Scott Webb has been with AQUA magazine in one capacity or another since April 2001; he now serves as executive editor. Scott has a degree from University of Cincinnati in Aerospace Engineering and lives in Madison, Wisc.