Book & Media Reviews

Artful Foundations
I have a confession to make:  I've never really been much interested in art. That may seem surprising coming from someone who has a degree in landscape architecture and has dedicated a career to design.  Fact is, I was never exposed to different types of art or to art history in any serious way:  My high school didn't offer it, my family wasn't big on it and my landscape-architecture curriculum didn't require it. This never really bothered me, and the fact that nobody seemed to care
A Generalist’s Roadmap
This time around, I'll follow a detour from the design-oriented publications we've been covering to take a look at a truly unique resource:  If you build residential swimming pools and spas or are considering moving into the field, the National Spa & Pool Institute's Residential Pool & Spa Builders Reference Manual is a useful and informative text unlike any other available to the trade.   Written and reviewed by dozens of NSPI's builder members, the manual offers a comprehensive overview of pool and spa construction while providing a good foundation of general business and technical information.  That makes sense, because it is basically the
A View from Abroad
It's a simple fact:  There are real differences in the way designers and builders do things in different parts of the world.   This is particularly true for swimming pools and other forms of decorative water:  In some areas, for example, the focus seems to be mainly on the water and on details associated with the watershape itself.  In others, the focus seems to be less on the water and more on the surrounding details, such as decks, walls or architectural features. Whichever way it goes, it's always beneficial for designers to expose themselves to the work of watershapers from around the world.  The best way to do this, of course, is to
A Mexican Master
In his column for the November 2001 issue, David Tisherman mentioned a number of designers who have influenced him through the years.  Even with my degree in landscape architecture, I have to concede that I was familiar with only about half the people to whom he called our attention. One of the designers I was unfamiliar with was Luis Barragan, so I picked up Luis Barragan:  Mexico's Modern Master, 1902-1988 (published by Monacelli Press Inc. in 1996 and written by Antonio Riggen Martinez) to find out something about him.     Barragan is now world famous, but that
Pooled Resources
Books dedicated specifically to swimming pools are of immediate and obvious utility to a great many watershapers.  I've found valuable ideas from such publications through the years - despite the fact that much of the time their content is aimed at consumers rather than professionals. One thing that has disappointed me in many of these pool-focused publications is that the pool industry itself is not very well represented.  Instead, what you usually see is the work of landscape architects, architects and other designers.  In many cases their work is beautiful and deserving of attention, but the general exclusion of the work of
A Gallery of Icons
If you're looking for a broad overview of the world's most significant gardens, their styles and the designers who created them, Icons of Garden Design may well be just the book for you.  The 174-page text, edited by Caroline Holmes and published by Prespel Publishing in 2001, consists of dozens of well-illustrated articles from a variety of writers who cover an amazingly broad range of famous designs and designers. The book's coverage reaches back to 300 B.C. and comes to a close in the here and now.  Along the way, you visit the grounds of Versailles in France, Chatsworth in England, the Peterhof in Russia and an array of gardens less well known to most of us educated in the Western world, including fantastic spaces in
Making People Places
One of the first books about landscape architecture I ever read was Gardens Are for People by Thomas Church, a designer justly famous for changing the way exterior spaces are treated today - especially in the residential environment. This book was first published in 1953, but a second edition (published in 1983 by Reinhold Publishing Corp.) is still widely available in bookstores and on the Internet.  The 250-plus-page book traces Church's long career, which started in California in the 1930s and lasted through the late '70s and almost to his death in 1978. His great gift was taking the art of landscape architecture and applying it to the masses.   Before him, landscape architecture was
Starting with Gardens
For watershapers looking to grow into broad, integrated exterior designs that extend beyond the water's edge, The Garden Design Book (compiled by Cheryl Merser and the editors of Garden Design magazine) is a great place to start. Published by Harper-Collins in 1997, the book draws on years of articles published in the magazine, a wonderful publication for both amateur and professional gardeners.  Throughout the 300+ beautifully illustrated pages, Merser and company offer a huge stock of valuable information for those in quest of complete environments. Merser is not a designer, and one of the things I like most about the book is that she
Water in the Garden
Without any hesitation at all, I can say that Gardening with Water by James Van Sweden (Random House, 1995) is one of the most influential books on design that I've ever read.  It's currently out of print, but it's certainly worth a hunt and can still be found on the Internet and in many technical bookstores. All through its 206 beautifully illustrated pages, Van Sweden carefully details his approach to designing with water - an element he says should be used in some form in every garden design.  Along the way, he covers his firm's use of swimming pools (natural and architectural) as well as birdbaths, fountains, small watergardens and large ponds. It's an important book from a tremendously influential designer.  In fact,
Making Spectacles
For anyone designing decorative water, Fountains: Splash and Spectacle is a wonderful and useful resource.  This wonderfully illustrated anthology of essays on classic fountains (edited by Marilyn Symmes and published in 1998 by Rizzoli International Publishing, New York) deftly encompasses the range of fountain designs from antiquity to modern day.   From the modest Alhambra in Spain to Chicago's dramatic Buckingham Memorial, Symmes and the book's contributors weave together scores of detailed examples illustrated with beautiful photos and, in many cases, supported by sets of plans, drawings and diagrams used in creating some of the world's most beautiful and historic watershapes. Rather than approach fountains in a purely chronological or geographic context, the book is organized into eight chapters covering