By Patricia Soto
A small town set in the suburban vastness of southern California, the city of La Mirada seems an unlikely setting for a leading-edge aquatics facility – let alone the grand one that now occupies 19 prominent acres within the city’s sprawling regional park.
We were first introduced to the project in September 2005 by the city’s public works director, Steve Forster, who invited us to sit in on a meeting to discuss the city’s ambitions. At this gathering, key city officials let us know that they’d already secured much of the $30 million plus the project would require and expressed their desire to begin moving right away with a very aggressive project schedule. What was needed now, they told us, was a company that had
By Bruce Zaretsky
In the often wild and woolly world of custom landscape and watershape design, it’s sometimes impossible to predict the sources of the most interesting and challenging projects – or anticipate how we manage to find our ways into the middle of them. It’s all part of what makes this profession so uplifting at times – and so confounding at others.
I’ve worked hard to accept and embrace the strange tides of fortune this business entails. As a case in point, this month (and next) I’m going to relate a story that captures the essence of what it can take to accommodate the unexpected and enlist the nerve it sometimes takes to
By Perry Wood, Mark Baker & Travis Tuck
People who live in and around Hilton Head Island, S.C., cherish the memory of Charles Fraser, the visionary developer who set the standard for the way communities look along vast stretches of the Carolina coast. Most prominently, he pioneered progressive land-planning standards 50 years ago in developing Sea Pines, one of the first communities to incorporate environmental preservation as part of the development, take its design cues from nature and support the concept with land covenants and restrictions.
Fraser’s vision for Sea Pines has since become the foundation for many planned communities worldwide and embodies a philosophy that has, in the intervening years, spread throughout the country. Indeed, our firm – Wood+Partners of Hilton Head – has always endeavored to adhere to this approach in planning communities that are situated in and around natural environments.
Most of the time, that means we work (as Fraser did) with water as a central amenity, whether the setting borders a lake, the ocean, a river or a natural wetland area. As we see it, our mission is to preserve and, where we can, even
By James van Sweden
The Chicago Botanic Garden is located, oddly enough, a good 40 miles from that city in the suburb of Glencoe, Ill. And although it is specifically named for the Midwest’s greatest city and might seem a municipal endeavor, it is actually maintained by private donations and serves to display the entire region’s rich flora and scenic beauty.
The garden is organized around a large body of water known as the Great Basin, which was created some 60 years ago by dredging the area and diverting the Skokie River to create a series of islands and lagoons. The largest island, known as Evening Island, was the initial focus of our work in redesigning the space.
My firm, Oehme, van Sweden and Associates of Washington, D.C., became involved in the project
Not to diminish the painted ponies of The Wizard of Oz, but Steve Mann’s hydraulophones are horses of a different color. These watershapes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from landmark centerpieces that have the sculptural grandeur of pipe organs all the way down to water-flutes that resemble brightly colored tadpoles.
What’s most remarkable about these devices isn’t just their structural and artistic variety or the ways they look as visual art: It’s the sounds they make. At first, the natural comparison is to a pipe organ, but as you listen, a variety of shadings and other sonic reverberations emerge, slip and slide around you.
What’s more, hydraulophones invite people to insert their fingers into the jetting water to shape the sound and squeeze out the shape of each note, and a variety of sonic textures are possible depending upon
By Robert Nonemaker
My dictionary defines a rill as a small stream cut by erosion. In the practice of watershaping, however, that colorful little word has been stretched to cover manufactured channels in which we artfully move water from one place to another.
These often-subtle effects have a history dating at least to the 5th Century BC, when Persian kings demonstrated their power over nature by using rills to bring water – a symbol of fertility as well as a practical means of cooling architectural spaces – from rivers and aqueducts to their palaces.
These early rills were observed and adopted by Muslim designers and engineers who rose to eminence in the Middle East more than a millennium later and were carried along as Islamic influence spread through India, North Africa and, eventually, Spain, where signature elements of Moorish architecture are still seen today in the famous
By Sven Schunemann
I was out of a job in Gloucester, England, several years back when I came across a collection of wonderfully unusual sculptures that changed my life.
These compositions, called Flowforms, were the work of British sculptor John Wilkes, an inspired artist who for most of his professional life has explored ways to use water’s nature and characteristics as his medium.
I was immediately drawn to what I saw: I’d worked as an estate gardener before being trained as a sculptor at the St. Martin School of Art in London and had always had an interest in natural forms and all sorts of experimental media. I had also spent a good part of
By Bruce Kania
There may still be some who resist the idea, but by now it is verifiable fact that plant material can be used to treat and purify water in artificial watershapes as well as in natural bodies of water. For decades, in fact, scientists have borne witness to these processes in natural wetlands – so much so that today, these concepts are being studied around the world using artificial wetlands and floating islands that mimic natural structures and processes.
Our firm, Floating Island International of Shepherd, Mont., is predictably focused on the floating island concept. In our efforts to understand all of the nuances and specifics of how plants on floating islands can be used to best advantage, we have made contact and worked worldwide with scores of independent researchers and institutions across a range of settings, applications and agendas.
Yes, we’ve been gratified by the resulting findings and the benefits that reportedly flow from use of our systems. In a more important and greater context, however, we see this collection of empirical data and anecdotal evidence as conclusive proof that biological water treatment is not only viable, but is also surprisingly
By Jim Wilder
Among the wonderful benefits of working in the custom watershaping business is that you never really know what sort of projects will wander into view.
Through the years, we at Live Water Creations of Santa Rosa, Calif., have certainly participated in developing and executing some unusual designs, but I can honestly say that working on one that included a huge, beautiful steel pyramid topped by a deep-space telescope was something that had yet to come our way.
And it would have stayed that way had I not received a call from John Anderson of Pools by Rapp, another firm here in Santa Rosa. We’ve collaborated on other projects in which our firm has built ponds or fountains to go along with pools and spas he’s done. In this case, he was installing a lap pool and wanted our help in what he could only describe as an extremely unusual watershape.
The client said he had just built a beautiful contemporary home and, as an astronomy buff, wanted to complete the package with
By Mark Holden & Jim Bucklin
Wanting to soften and humanize the austere appearance of a new facility for homeless families, the benefactors of the Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin, Calif., commissioned an unusual watershape. The idea pulled watershaper Mark Holden and project manager Jim Bucklin into a whirlwind in which they had to create unique systems to accommodate the world’s largest ceramic amphora – and do so within an extraordinarily tight deadline.
What happens when one of the country’s wealthiest philanthropists provides funding for a truly unique art piece in support of a favorite cause? The short answer is, everyone jumps to make it happen.
That was literally the situation when a nonprofit organization that serves the needs of homeless families received a donation from its largest benefactor to fund construction of an unusual fountain system. The waterfeature, we learned, was to support the world’s largest amphora, which at that time was just being completed by a Danish artist.
Destined for the courtyard of a new facility about to be
By Bruce Zaretsky
I must say that I look forward to receiving my own copy of WaterShapes in the mail each month. It’s not because I can’t wait to see my own columns in print; rather, it’s because so I’m amazed and inspired by the work watershapers put on display here that I always devour each and every page.
That’s not, by the way, anything I’d say about the rest of the 30-odd trade magazines I receive via mail or e-mail. WaterShapes always seems to deal with the best of the best, and reading about how these incredible projects come together is
By Michael Batchelor & Andrey Berezowsky
Challenged to develop a sculpture that would make a strong statement about the commissioning company’s expertise in engineering and motion-control technology, Michael Batchelor and Andrey Bererzowsky of Montreal’s SWON Design delivered a work of subtle beauty to an otherwise stark architectural context. Here’s a close look at the resulting medley of textured glass, sheeting water, gleaming steel and arcing jets, all set within curving ponds.
With residential projects, the importance of understanding the character and focus of the client is widely recognized and appreciated. Although the scales are different and the “clients” may be committees, we’ve discovered that the same is basically true with commercial projects as well.
A case in point is this project, which we completed for Parker Hannifin, the Mayfield, Ohio-based manufacturer of engineering components and a multi-billion-dollar company whose products are found on everything from Space Shuttles to precision industrial machinery. Appropriately, the sculpture we were asked to design was to reflect a highly refined, disciplined sense of beauty.
We at SWON Design were first contacted by an independent marketing consultant, Karen Skunta, who was participating in the company’s effort to re-brand itself – a program that, in part, included
By George Forni
Every so often, a project comes along that evolves as it rolls along, and what starts out as one set of tasks and parameters morphs to become something entirely different before it’s through.
That was certainly the case on this residential-lake project: Located in the hills above Napa Valley, Calif., the job put us in touch with affluent, intelligent, fun-loving clients who had initially contacted us about the straightforward restoration of a dying lake located at the base of a ravine beset with unchecked plant growth and rattlesnakes.
None of that was new to us: We