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A Mexican Master

200206MF0By Mike Farley

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

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Pooled Resources

200205MF1By Mike Farley

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

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A Gallery of Icons

200204MF0By Mike Farley

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

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Making People Places

200203MF0By Mike Farley

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

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Starting with Gardens

200202MF0By Mike Farley

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

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Water in the Garden

200201MF0By Mike Farley

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,

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Of Porcupines and Personalities

200311MF0By Mike Farley

The Delicate Art of Dancing with Porcupines by Bob Phillips (Regal Books, 1989) may have one of the most unusual titles I’ve ever seen, but fortunately the quirky name didn’t stop from picking it up several years ago. At this point, I’ve read it multiple times and have taken to presenting it quite often as a gift to friends and associates.  

I like it so well myself because the text applies in practical and profound ways to my work as a watershape designer.  I share it with others because it has had something to say about every aspect of my life and can do the same for them, too.

A widely published marriage and family counselor, Phillips is best known for this small book (just 160 pages) in which he examines in wonderfully clear and concise detail what he calls “social style.”  The idea is that people generally fall into categories having to do with

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Toward an American Architecture

200310MF0By Mike Farley

“True form is always organic in character.”
                         -- Frank Lloyd Wright

I never studied Frank Lloyd Wright in school, but I’ve been intrigued by his work and design philosophy for years and had long intended to fill this gap in my education on my own.  But that’s proved to be easier said than done because of the huge number of books about him:  There are simply so many of them that I never knew where or how to start.   

This dilemma came to an abrupt end when I ran across a book written in Wright’s own hand.  That book, An American Architecture, was first published in 1955 by Horizon Press and was reissued by Barnes & Noble in 1998.  Edited by Edgar Kaufmann, the text is a compilation of Wright’s notes, speeches and lectures spanning

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Periodic Resources

1 farleyBy Mike Farley

As a reader of WaterShapes, it’s likely you appreciate the valuable information published by quality magazines.  I certainly do, so in addition to the steady diet of books I read to keep up on technical and design issues as well as business approaches and philosophies, I also turn to a handful of periodicals for the helpful and inspiring information they have to offer.

For one thing, I find that these magazines fill gaps I perceive in my own background.  For another – and even though some of the ones I read run far afield of the industry-specific information I value in trade magazines – I’m uniquely surprised by

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Exterior Collaborations

200308MF0By Mike Farley

Amazing things can happen when great architects think beyond the walls and tackle exterior design as part of their projects.  That’s a message that comes through loud and clear and repeatedly in Susan Zevon’s Outside Architecture (Rockport Publishers, 1999).

Throughout the book’s 190 generously illustrated pages, she covers the work of 18 architects – using multiple examples from each while focusing not so much on individual projects but rather on key features, styles and design philosophies that cut across the range of the fine work on display.  About three quarters of the projects are residential and range stylistically from classic to modern at locations scattered across the United States and Mexico.

Nearly all of the architects were new

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Those Who Serve

Farley-FinalBy Mike Farley

Back in February’s WaterShapes, I stepped a bit beyond the usual in discussing Harvests of Joy by Robert Mondavi, noting that I’d read the book based on a recommendation from fellow WaterShapes columnist Brian Van Bower.  I also mentioned that the book was one of the most important I’ve come across in recent years.

This time around, I’d like to review another of Brian’s recommended books – one he suggested during a seminar I recently attended and which has also proved to be wonderfully useful and extremely influential:  Samurai Selling: The Ancient Art of Service in Sales by Chuck Laughlin and Karen Sage with Marc Bockmon (St. Martin Press, 1993).  

Until I read this book, my sense of what Samurai were all about was based on no more than warrior movies and video games.  What I learned instead is that Samurai based their lives entirely on a concept of service (of which warfare was only a small part).  The authors use the philosophy of the Samurai to define

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Views of Pools

200306MF1By Mike Farley

Most coffee-table books on swimming pools published to date have dealt almost exclusively with the work of architects and landscape architects.  The past year, however, has seen the publication of three new books about pools – each of them focusing primarily on the work of pool contractors.

The result is three books that cover a broad range of styles and designs – a trio I’ve already found to be extremely useful as

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Building by Water

200305MF0By Mike Farley

When I first picked up Water & Architecture by Charles W. Moore (published by Harry H. Abrams in 1994), I thought I’d found the perfect resource for those of us who design and build contained, controlled bodies of water.  As I delved into this book’s incredibly well-illustrated 224 pages, however, for a short time I worried that the text was mostly irrelevant to the working lives of watershapers.

Ultimately, however, I found the text to be very helpful – even if it wasn’t in the manner I had initially thought.  

I was disheartened initially because the text seemed so broad in its coverage of water and architecture – and so rooted in history and philosophy – as to be of little practical use.  Specifically, Moore deals with subjects as grand as rivers, oceans, harbors and architectural history in very broad and almost

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