While the owners of this Rochester, N.Y., home wanted a two-story addition that included an exercise room, a studio, a library, and an atrium, the koi pond was really the focus. The owners were developing a large collection of koi and wanted to house them indoors.

Building the 24,500-gallon tank for the pond, which is located in the atrium, was an engineering feat. The property backs up to a creek; there is a high water table and sandy soil. "Structurally, we were undermining the existing foundation," says Danny Naples, owner of Cutri Construction, in Canandaigua, N.Y., which did the project over the course of 18 months. Cutri Construction installed a manhole that went 18 feet deep into a silo to keep the water levels down, and had to undermine and support the existing foundation. "It was a slow, tedious process," Naples says. "We were constantly checking water levels, soil conditions, and watching for movement in the existing structure."

The 24,500 gallon Koi pond creates a tranquil spot in the atrium. Beyond it are a studio and a library and, on the floor below, a play and exercise room with a 1-inch thick viewing window into the pond.
copyright Design NY 2008 The 24,500 gallon Koi pond creates a tranquil spot in the atrium. Beyond it are a studio and a library and, on the floor below, a play and exercise room with a 1-inch thick viewing window into the pond.

copyright Design NY 2008

Once the foundation was stable the crew began pouring concrete for the pond. "That was another engineering feat — the pond had to contain incredible loads of water," Naples says. The walls and floor are more than 12 inches thick and loaded with steel. Cutri Construction installed a large 1-inch-thick viewing window in the room below. The atrium has a floor of Chinese black flamed granite and a two-story vaulted ceiling with glulam timbers and posts, enormous skylights, and a sloped roof clad in copper.

"A motorized shade system was installed on the skylights to help with temperature control," Naples says. "You don’t want it to be too hot or too cold for the fish. You’ll end up with evaporation and condensation. There is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained." There’s an air conditioning system with a powerful built-in dehumidifier, and the skylights even have reflective glass to cut down on solar gain.

The house, built in the 1950s, has a contemporary feel created by straight, clean lines. The addition "blends right in," Naples says, "maintaining the look, feel, and character of the existing residence."