Book & Media Reviews

Structured Thinking
It might sound a bit strange to put it this way, but when it comes to design work, one of the most useful things you can do is to think about how you think about design. If you're like me and have been working as a watershape designer for more years than you care to count, much of what you do is now
Architectural Thought
It might sound a bit strange to put it this way, but when it comes to design work, one of the most useful things you can do is to think about how you think about design. If you’re like me and have been working as a watershape designer for more years than you care to count, much of what you do is now second nature.  But if you think back to the way it was when you first started – and if you’re anything like me – little or none of what you did felt natural or easy.  In my case, I had to process every step methodically, sometimes awkwardly and even painfully on occasion. That’s why I wish, back in those early days, that I’d
Change From Within
So much has been written and said about our current economic situation that it can get pretty depressing.  One thing I hear and read over and over is that “Many people are just stuck, waiting and hoping for things to change.”   I can’t help noticing that, for lots of people in government and major industries as well as in small businesses and sole proprietorships, this approach means doing the exact same things they were doing when their days were fat with opportunities.  Personally, I think that’s crazy! I believe if I want my situation to change, good times or bad, I must change myself from within and can’t afford to wait for external forces to push me toward prosperity – especially not these days, when nobody really knows what’s
Concrete Possibilities
Concrete is an utterly amazing material, but it’s so widely used – so pervasive in our world – that it’s easy for the average person to take it for granted and barely give it a second thought.   As watershapers, of course, we don’t have the luxury of underestimating concrete:  With the sole exception of water, it’s far and away the most essential of all the materials we use across a huge range of applications.  We simply could not do what we do without it. But how often do we deploy concrete in purely aesthetic ways?  Some of us use artificial rock or specialized decking treatments, but isn’t it mostly true that we build our structures from concrete and then systematically cover it up with plaster, stone, tile or some other surfacing material?    It didn’t take long for me to start
A Place to Begin
It’s a bit hard for me to believe it, but it’s now been fully 11 years since I attended my first Genesis 3 design school.  One of the events I remember most clearly from that first session was (among many others) David Tisherman laying out a bunch of books and recommending that we should immediately obtain and read all of them.   Always looking for a firm foothold, I asked him which one I should read first, and, without hesitation, he pointed to Janson's History of Art:  The Western Tradition.  I didn’t act on his advice right away, but I eventually acquired a copy and started reading – and it took me nearly
Small Wonders
On several occasions through the past few years, I’ve been called on to design several projects that were both extremely small and extremely detailed.  I’ve found that working in these intimate spaces is a tremendous challenge, with every single detail taking on tremendous importance and even something as innocuous as
Defining Resources
Those of you who've followed this column for any length of time know that it's all about my hunt for resources that will help me become better at what I do. As I see it, my job here is to share what I discover in the hope that my own information-seeking journey
When It Rains
The numbers are eye-popping:  Just about one percent of all the water on Planet Earth exists as freshwater suitable for human consumption.  And depending on where you live in the United States, anywhere from a quarter to almost half of that precious resource is used for irrigation. This is why it’s so important for those of us who design watershapes and exterior environments to consider options that minimize our use of potable water to maintain the landscape – and why I’m glad I picked up a copy of Rain Gardens by Nigel Gunnett and Andy Clayden (Timber Press, 2007):  This 190-page text defines specific steps we can all take to replace municipal or well water with rainwater, capturing a gift from the skies and using it to sustain our landscapes.   As the authors point out, we live in a time when drought is
Seeking Inspiration
In looking back on my career, I see that the past 20 years have been marked by a number of points at which I altered what I was doing. Sometimes I changed companies; other times I found a way of shifting my approach to my work or how I conducted my life.  In looking back, I’m proud of the fact that every time I chose to go in a new direction, the changes I made resulted in dramatic improvements in my career and in my enjoyment of my work and, indeed, of my life in general. In other words, I’ve learned that, when approached the right way, change offers us an opportunity to advance our own causes in business and in life.  Yes, it can be scary in that it typically involves
Liking It Hot
It’s hard to pin down exactly when it happened, but at some point in the past dozen years the concept of the outdoor kitchen took off – so much so that these features have moved from “relatively unusual” to “must-have” status on very nearly every upscale residential project.   That’s certainly been the case in my practice, and I hear the same thing from most other watershapers and landscape professionals I’ve talked with in recent times. I’ve already covered some books intended to help us design these spaces and select among the variety of available components and options (“Book Notes,” June 2007).  This time, I’ll take a different tack by