Designing Pools with Richard Lyon, Registered Landscape Architect

At first glance, the steep slope in your back yard seems like the last place a pool should be built—as does a residential rooftop or the edge of a beachfront getaway just feet from the ocean.  In many cases though, challenging sites are ideal spaces for an out-of-the-box pool.  Richard Lyon will tell you that challenging sites are often ideal spaces for this type of design. In fact, hillsides and urban residences are the sites of many of Richard’s spectacular pool creations.

Difficulty Inspires Creativity


Designing a pool, or any landscape project, begins with a consultation with Richard, or another of Wallace’s landscape architects to determine the homeowner’s landscape needs and desires.  Once a scope of work is agreed upon, the Wallace design team will conduct an in-house site survey that documents topography and existing site features.

When designing a pool, determining local and municipal codes requirements are imperative. This is a vital step in the design process because it allows the Wallace team to understand potential conflicts before pool construction begins, ultimately saving the homeowner from possible construction changes, delays and added project costs. Richard works through every step of the design process with the client providing rendered plans, perspective sketches and cost estimates so the client has a full understanding of what will be built and how much it will cost. In house construction details are also prepared to ensure a well-thought-out design that is installed with minimal delays or field changes.


Case Study – Northern Delaware

One of the most common spaces for an uncommon pools site is within a hillside. The views from these placements are often spectacular and perfect for poolside entertaining and relaxation; but they can also pose an intense challenge for a pool builder, resulting in the need for employing the talents of a highly qualified, licensed professional.

This residence in northern Delaware had only one flat usable space ideal for a swimming pool, however an underground utility line ran through it making installation impossible.  Richard was able to skillfully carve the pool into the existing hillside to not only solve the problem, but create a dramatic multi-level outdoor entertainment space.


Difficulty Inspires Creativity


Rolling terrain, which is abundant in the Delaware Valley region, may present a problem when trying to install a pool.  For those who have a sloped backyard, it is important to consider how (and if) the pool fits into the landscape. municipalities pool codes require a perimeter fence barrier surrounding the pool for safety. In this design, Richard was able to use the pools wall to satisfy the code requirement, cleverly allowing unobstructed views.


Pool is nestled into existing sloppe

AFTER: Pool is nestled into existing sloping terrain.


The art of designing a pool is not simply knowing where to place the pool on site, the real skill is understanding how the pool integrates into the larger landscape to create a cohesive design.  Seamlessly blending design into existing site conditions, understanding topography and most importantly, collaborating with the client ensures that the vision and needs are articulated in the new landscape.

Is a swimming pool in your future? This is a good time to meet with a landscape architect and start the process. Installing a swimming pool is a complicated design and construction project and not one that you will want to rush. Don’t settle for a cookie cutter pool when you can have one designed to meet your specific taste and needs.


Difficulty Inspires Creativity


Richard Lyon, RLA

Richard Lyon, principal landscape architect at Wallace Landscape Associates, has been creating innovative design solutions and designing pools for challenging landscapes for over 30 years.  He specializes in large-scale residential projects, the revitalization of older landscapes, and designing for new homes.  To learn more about Richard and see some of Richards projects click here .