The project team “took a banal structure and gave it new life,” said the judges of Somerset Pool House, which underwent a deft renovation that gave it “craft and form and a massively upscale look in one fell swoop.” The jury was especially impressed by the modern take on a shed roof. When it came time to renovate the town’s public pool house, architect Mark McInturff didn’t have just one client—he was working with a village of highly informed and vocal citizens, a building committee, and the local jurisdiction, who all weighed in with plenty to say. There were environmental considerations, too. The pool house, built half a century ago and falling down, was in a ravine near a stream—a sensitive site that could withstand minimal demolition.

“If the building weren’t already there, we couldn’t have built on the site,” admits McInturff, who adds that “the greenest building is the one that’s already there.” The options were either to stop using the structure or build a new one. To keep earth disturbance to a minimum in this critical watershed area, the design team reused the original building. Newly constructed wetlands help protect the stream by capturing surface runoff. Much of the newly built hardscaping uses open decking or porous pavers to maximize the amount of permeable surface in the community center.

A painstaking remodel of the building itself—an existing pool house dating from the 1960s—ensued. Existing 6x12 timber roof frame members were salvaged during demolition; these were reused for an entry sign and a new shade pavilion. The project team opened up the space to make it light-dappled and breezy so it functioned as “one big porch—a gathering place, and not just a bunch of bathrooms and showers,” says McInturff. Using off-the-shelf lumber, standard roof trusses, and exposed stainless steel fasteners helped contain costs (the project came in under budget). In this case, the least pricey solution also turned out to be the best.

The judges also appreciated how beautiful the pool house looks lit up come evening. Both night and day, though, Somerset Pool House has become the place to be. McInturff and his team are proud to report that if you want to grill dinner and sit outside with friends and neighbors on a Saturday night in summer, nabbing a table on the patio will take some doing.

On Site

From Memorial Day to Labor Day is high season for this carefully restored pool house. Just outside the city limits of Washington D.C. The shed roof and its deep overhang extend beyond the building's original walls to provide protected and shady areas. The deep roof overhangs also were designed with the future in mind. It's now possible for nano glass walls to be installed so that winterization of the some of the spaces of the building—which went from neglected to hugely popular—would eventually be possible.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.