For city dwellers, getting away from it all and getting in touch with nature means going to the roof for respite and repose.
Rooftop pools and spas, which offer over-the-top views of the cityscape in intimate settings, are the latest uber amenity in penthouse living.
“They are becoming much more popular,” says Alec Gunn, principal of Gunn Landscape Architecture in New York City.
Zach Trapani, co-owner of UpStream Pools, a company in Fairfield, New Jersey, that specializes in rooftop pools and spas, agrees, adding that “people use them as a place to relax at the end of the day or as showpieces for entertaining.”
Gunn notes that they are designed not only to be seen but also to be used.
“People pay a premium for these spaces, so they do use them for activities, which can be anything from dipping their toes into cool water on a hot day to soaking in temperature-controlled water while taking in the views on a crisp cool evening in the autumn,” he says.
One of Gunn’s clients, who has a penthouse in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, tucked a spa into a corner of the roof’s outdoor living space, creating a cozy corner far from prying eyes.
At the SoHo rooftop space designed by Gunn Landscape Architecture, a hot tub by Diamond Spas is tucked into a corner next to the dining area. (Photo by Peter Murdock)
“The space also has a formal dining area for friends,” he says. “The hot tub, though, is private. There’s a lounge with a TV so you can soak and watch shows.”
Gunn used willow structures to define each part of the space and add greenery to soften the brick and concrete.
“The scene unfolds as you look through the arbor, but the spa, which offers views of Midtown, is also secluded,” he says.
Typically, he specifies Diamond Spas custom products for his rooftop designs “because they are clean and contemporary; they are well built and well thought out.”
For this project, he chose an 8-foot-square custom stainless steel spa and surrounded it with an ipe deck; a glass safety wall on one side accents the cityscape views.
Trapani, too, prefers Diamond Spas, which is based in Frederick, Colorado, because “they are very good about delivering and meeting deadlines; that’s huge. And they are one of the only companies to make copper spas – that widens our offering because it’s something different.”
The rooftop space designed by Gunn Landscape Architecture for a SoHo penthouse features a Diamond Spa hot tub in a corner. A willow structure provides a sense of privacy. (Photo by Peter Murdock)
He says customization is a big selling point for his clients. “They size out the parts to fit the user,” he says. “We did a rooftop spa that had a bench that fit the user like a wave. It was very comfortable.”
One of more unusual rooftop projects he did in Manhattan features two stainless steel Diamond Spa pools that are each 10-feet wide and 20-feet long. “They’re on top of a semi-commercial development,” he says. “One of the pools is shared by two units. The other is private.”
Rooftop pools and spas create special design and installation challenges: There are weight restrictions, electrical capacity questions and engineering issues.
“Everything has to fit precisely and is put into place with a crane,” Gunn says. “Diamond Spas’ products – in stainless steel or copper – are much lighter than granite or concrete. And they send everything we need, including piping and instructions, in a kit.”
Trapani says that Diamond Spas technology makes usability easier, reflecting on a stainless steel spa project they completed that was on the 36th floor in Manhattan.
“This was a great project because Diamond Spas provided the technology to integrate the spa into the security system of the home,” he says. “If the water gets too cold, the front desk is alerted; almost everything is controlled by the owners’ smartphones.”
Gunn used that same technology on an 8-foot-square hot tub installed in Tribeca near One World Trade Center in Manhattan. The Diamond Spa vessel, which is stainless steel, is set in front of a water wall that’s designed to drown out the noise of the city.
The spa is a highlight of the rooftop space, which also includes an outdoor kitchen, a dining area and a garden near the master bedroom.
An illuminated ipe stairway leads to the spa, custom made by Diamond Spas for a project in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood designed by Gunn Landscape Architecture. (Photo by Alex Herring)
The spa is reached via ipe steps so “it’s like you’re walking to the sky,” Gunn says. “You literally leave the world behind.”
The steps are illuminated with white linear lights on the tops of the risers. “The lighting adds a whole other layer or beauty and romance to the space,” Gunn says.
The illusion of being in the middle of nature is reinforced by a water wall and a protective fence of cedar that’s softened by a hedge of junipers. Banks of bamboo, planted in dark grey wooden containers, frame the spa.
“Diamond Spas sent videos showing the progress of their work,” Gunn says. “This got the clients really excited about the project.”
The owners, he says, continue to experience the same sense of excitement every time they step into the spa.
“It’s a safe, private and secure space,” he says. “Yet they still get a great view of the Manhattan skyline.”