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  • Inspiration: Lava pool in Maderia, Portugal

    Maderia is an island off the coast of Portugal; yes, it’s where Maderia wine is made. It and the other islands in the area formed as a result of volcanic activity that ceased around 6000 years ago. The island of Maderia is popular with tourists. It features beautiful, jagged peaks of volcanic rock and thick forests; it’s a Mecca for hikers. With its 1000+ miles of aqueducts, all with adjacent footpaths, its forests and mountains are accessible to anyone who feels fit enough to tackle them.

    Lava Pool in Madeira Portugal
    Lava Pool in Madeira Portugal

    What’s the Lava Pool?

    The Lava Pool is a natural formation on the shore of the village of Porto Moniz. Unlike some of the other natural pools we’ve looked at for design inspiration, such as Wufengchi Waterfall and Aruba’s Natural Pool, the Lava Pool is not undeveloped. The locals have worked into the natural volcanic rock to make it safer, friendlier and more convenient for swimmers and sunbathers, and it’s popular with locals and tourists alike. Steps, paths and sunbathing platforms have been carved out of the rock and the edges of the drop-offs have been painted white for better visibility.

    This isn’t a hidden, 100% natural area. However, it’s still undeniably beautiful, and it’s easy to take direct inspiration from it. While the developers of the Lava Pool started with a natural formation and tamed it, you’ll be starting with a man-made pool and making it a little wilder.

    Porto Moniz
    Porto Moniz

    Design Ideas From Porto Moniz’s Lava Pool

    1. Levels and Steps

    The Lava Pool, viewed close up, looks almost like an Escher poster. There are flat spaces for sunbathing at many levels and they are linked by stairs, with a seawall at the back connecting everything. The sections of the pool that are shallow enough to walk in have been paved and equipped with underwater steps and platforms; volcanic rock is really hard on the feet! So, the general impression is one of steps and platforms both around the pool and inside the pool. This work has made the Lava Pool much more accessible, but it’s also beautiful in and of itself. To get a similar look and feel, consider using more than one level, both in the pool and along the edges.

    2. Curves and Slopes

    If you want to capture the natural look of the Lava Pool, then think about using broad curves and sloped platforms both inside and outside your pool. Inside the pool, adding levels will create depth and complexity. You can control the colour through your choice of pool liner, but varying the depth of the pool will create different tones, since deeper water always appears to be bluer and darker. On a practical note, putting platforms into the pool can create places for small children to play and for older kids and adults to sit and cool off.

    3. Natural Rock

    Of course, it’s the volcanic rock that really gives the Lava Pool its character - that and the white paint that’s used on the edges and sometimes all over the steps and platforms. There are at least two design ideas that you can take from that: using high contrast materials and yes, literally adding natural rock to your design. A real or natural-looking rock formation in the crook of a curve at the pool’s edge would be especially effective, visually, as would a volcanic rock wall, perhaps with a waterfall. A bright white pool deck would create contrast with darker landscaping elements like trees and volcanic rock. Volcanic rock or other dark-coloured stone could be used in pebble or tile form as a ground covering as well as in boulder form as an accent.

    Rockpool and Rocks Porto Moniz Madeira
    Rockpool and Rocks Porto Moniz Madeira

    Because it’s partly a product of human ingenuity itself, Porto Moniz’s Lava Pool really does offer a wealth of both direct and indirect inspiration for pool design. We’ve thought of a few ideas, but there are plenty more to draw from it. What ideas have we missed, and how would you apply the ones above to your specific pool and landscape design?

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