By Greg Danskin
‘Those of us in the design and construction industry are engaged in a singularly complicated human endeavor. To make things work,’ noted architect Greg Danskin in a March 2008 WaterShapes feature article, ‘it’s common for many technical disciplines to come together, including soils and structural engineers and contractors and subcontractors as well as architects, interior designers, landscape architects, lighting designers and watershapers – all working in concert to bring form to the goals and aspirations of the clients.
‘These professionals unite in designing spaces that people use and occupy – a simple yet profound thread that ties all of us engaged in any given project together. Through our combined efforts, we change and influence lives by virtue of the ways we conceive, organize and realize these spaces.’ He continued:
‘These days, at a time when watershapes are commonly being integrated into the designs of buildings of many types and sizes, it serves our interests as architects who incorporate water into our thinking to make certain watershapers – that is, those who’ve chosen water as an artistic medium – know what we do, the processes we employ, the language and terminology we use, our project goals and, most important, our interest in fostering positive working relationships with watershapers.’
‘Look at it this way: Architects are in the business of designing spaces to meet a need, satisfy a stated program and build an environment that serves a client while giving expression to an artistic mindset. This is why, in the design process, architects seek to explain what they’re after in ways that give a project its form. The “language” they use is at times a set of drawings, but on other occasions it involves models or words – tools they have revised and refined over time to communicate their ideas about built environments.’
‘The language we’re discussing constitutes the common ground on which watershapers and architects should meet – but often don’t. That’s ironic because, although the media we use and the settings in which we use them may be different, the processes we pursue with our clients are much the same. Once we leave the world of modular or cookie-cutter solutions behind, we enter a custom realm in which small things have major effects and project success depends on our ability to communicate about ideas and processes without getting bogged down by language barriers.’
‘What I’m discussing here should be familiar enough: As custom watershapers, you know that your projects work best when everyone involved, from the excavation crew to the finish applicators, lines up and approaches the project with similar attitudes and ambitions. Just as you find opportunities and constraints and discover ways to meet clients’ goals, we architects define directions, set broad frameworks and rely on team members to understand where we’re headed and how programs can best be implemented.’
‘Success happens when design and construction professionals infuse far more into a project than could ever be captured or conveyed by a set of drawings and specifications. It happens when we also recognize that our work as architects, landscape architects and watershapers (and anyone else who gets involved) is incomplete and ineffectual unless it is integrated with the work of everyone else who’s involved.’
‘More than ever before, integration is the key word in the design/build process. On your part as watershapers and on mine as an architect,’ Danskin concluded, ‘we both need a working knowledge of all these other design disciplines and their vocabularies in order to plan and execute effectively.’
Back in 2008, Danskin defined a hierarchy in which the architect in charge called most of the shots in a project. Is that arrangement still part of the program, or have watershapers stepped out in pursuit of artistry to a point where design teams need to become more open and democratic? Please share your thoughts on the subject in the space below!