The brief for an upmarket pool and landscaping was standard enough but the teetering clifftop location and scale of the pool made it exceptional

Designed by Jeremy Cole, Humphreys Landscaping

From the landscape designer:

Project description

This Orewa clifftop property had a simple – but in terms of engineering extremely complex – brief. 

The owners wanted a pool, and one that could be seen from the beach.

The owner's request for the pool is not uncommon, a show stopping landscape is also to be expected, but to do this on an unstable cliff at a scale not usually seen presented many challenges.

Over 18 months, more than 95 people from 42 various companies helped make this challenge a reality. 

The 12x5m pool sits on piles drilled deep into the cliff to support its 90,000L capacity.

The clean lines of the cantilevered pergola look simple in design but are built to withstand constant coastal winds. 

In all, we saw the removal of 350m³ of wet, heavy clay, pumped in more than 200m³ of concrete and tied more than 16 tonnes of steel to support the hidden structure to reveal a landscape that elegantly flows from the house.

All of this was built at the height of the Covid pandemic and with less than 1.8m of access down the side of the house.

Design inspiration

The first time we visited the site we did so early one late summer morning – the sun was just rising over the Hauraki Gulf and our jaws dropped with how much potential this property had.

Taking consideration of the engineering challenges required to achieve the homeowner's dream, we were instantly able to see what was needed. 

The advantage of the panoramic view seemed the most obvious. 

The owner is based in Singapore and is used to a warm, tropical climate and he wanted the same experiences he has in his pool there, to be reflected in his pool here – including shallow areas for lounging, areas for sunning and areas for entertaining.

Working closely with the owner's expectation as well as the expectation of what is achievable here, we could develop an idea that would closely reflect this. 

We also worked closely with the desired style of Greek Mediterranean to tie in the house – this resulted in a very ‘white’ landscape, something the owner desperately wanted.

Planting was initially kept minimal until the owner moves back into the property in 3-5 years. 

At that stage, further development of the lower court would be completed.

Site analysis and engineering

This North Auckland, East Coast clifftop property provides panoramic views over the Hauraki gulf with views as far as Coromandel and Great Barrier as well as back over Orewa Beach toward central Auckland.

This presents some challenges with the site's exposure including high winds, risk of erosion and salt spray. 

The site sits off the side of a state highway meaning that large logistical challenges were presented to get material in and out of the property. 

A multi-shared driveway also had its challenges when undertaking such an extensive excavation and building in an existing group of properties.

The opportunities on the site were to take better advantage of the extensive views by connecting a new landscape back into the house and a wider landscape to draw users to the exterior of the property which was previously minimal and disconnected.

Building consent was required for the construction of the entire landscape and both structural and geotechnical engineers were used extensively. 

A previous slip on the property meant that large counterfort drains had been installed to help water flow off this and surrounding properties, all of which had to be avoided by the large piles supporting the pool and surrounds – many piles were in the way and had to be shifted). 

Further to this, no more weight could be added to the clifftop which meant all structures had to be tied to the bedrock beneath the clay – approximately eight metres down.

The counterfort drains not only posed challenges to keep them in place, but the piles in the pool could only shift in certain directions, and only by minimal measures. 

Steel surrounds were used in the piles to avoid the collapse of the drain and both the engineers were often on standby, on-site, during the piling to help alleviate the cost of plant machinery stopping for long periods resulting in large costs.

Lastly, all materials in and out of the site were limited to an 180cm wide pinch point which seems generous, until you're attempting to drill 70cm wide holes, eight metres deep into a cliff and the machine sizes that could get through (crane and drills) were slowed down due to their size constraint.

Credit list

Swimming pool design
Humphreys Landscaping
 Frameless Glass Company
Louvre roof
Locarno Louvres
Registered Master Landscapers 2022 Landscapes of Distinction Awards – Judges Recognition; Residential Project (Construction) Over $100,000 – Registered Master Landscapers 2022 Landscapes of Distinction Awards – Gold
Landscape contractor
 Humphreys Landscaping
Swimming pool construction
Tranquillity Pools
Lymra Limestone
Outdoor furniture
Lounge – Dawson & Co; spa pool – Sundance Spas

Designed by: Humphreys Landscaping

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