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15yearsagoBy Brian Van Bower

‘Last month,’ wrote Brian Van Bower to open his Aqua Culture column in the February 2004 issue of WaterShapes, ‘I jumped into the New Year with a discussion of how the trends we face these days are influencing our recent experiences in business, society and life in general.  

‘All that was intended to set up this column’s discussion of where we, as the watershaping industry, might be going in the months and years to come.  . . .  Rather than get into the aimless game of offering predictions, I’ll delve instead into

Where do high-end commercial clients turn for watershaping expertise? For the most part, observes Dominic Shaw of the landscape-architecture firm EDAW, they’ll call in either consultants, manufacturers or design/build experts – all of which will work, he adds, although they work best when the decision maker fully understands the roles these service providers play and can effectively manage the possibilities as a concept comes to fruition.
Where do high-end commercial clients turn for watershaping expertise?  For the most part, observes Dominic Shaw of the landscape-architecture firm EDAW, they’ll call in either consultants, manufacturers or design/build experts – all of which will work, he adds, although they work best when the decision maker fully understands the roles these service providers play and can effectively manage the possibilities as a concept comes to fruition.
By Dominic Shaw

For most watershape projects of above-average complexity, the clients – whether they are developers, architects, landscape architects or property owners – must choose how to execute their vision by deciding who they’ll bring in to do the actual work with the water.

In my 23 years in the watershaping trades (in service and maintenance, as an installer, with an equipment manufacturer and as a consultant), I’ve observed dramatically varied levels of expertise on the provider side of that equation.  These days, in my work for EDAW, a national landscape architecture firm, I’m now on the specifier side of the equation and, in an interesting reversal, very often find myself explaining to designers in my own company what their options are for getting a watershape designed and built.  

In my lengthening career, I’ve seen the sets of strengths, backgrounds, abilities and limitations each category of service provider brings to the table – and seen clearly that an understanding of how all the pieces fit together is useful for everyone involved,  from the property owner and specifier to the consultants, suppliers, contractors and subcontractors who get the job done.  

To build that understanding, let’s pull apart the process of setting up a high-end watershape from start to finish and see how various roles intersect and interrelate.  We’ll focus on large commercial projects for purposes of illustration, but the fact is that the same principles apply just as well (if less formally) to sophisticated

200310BVB0By Brian Van Bower

During the five years I’ve been writing this column for WaterShapes, I’ve been asked by a number of people how I manage to find the time to write this column, make presentations at trade shows, teach at Genesis 3 schools and conduct my own design/consulting business.  

I get the distinct impression that these questions have much less to do with curiosity about the power of time management than with questions about why I’d even bother to extend my focus beyond my primary business of

200309BVB0By Brian Van Bower

One of the real tricks in any art form can be the challenge of exercising restraint.  Bigger isn’t always better, and both scale and size do matter.  In other words, just because you can create something grand, it doesn’t always mean that you should.  

This principle of proportionality has a sharp, specific meaning in the world of the custom watershaper, especially when clients ask for something that is oversized for the property or more elaborate than called for by the setting or surrounding architecture.  We all know where it comes from:  Clients have seen something they like, and it

200308BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Perception is reality:  Regardless of whether that’s right or wrong, you are judged by appearances.  And there’s no escaping those judgments because it’s basic human nature.  

If your own appearances mean ugly-looking vehicles, sloppy-looking employees, shabby offices and job sites that look like disaster areas, you will inevitably be judged with that image by the clients who have hired you and by anyone else exposed to those appearances.  Personally, I’d rather have them focus on the quality of my work rather than on superficialities such as these, but

200307BVB0By Brian Van Bower

As I discussed in the June installment of this column, the construction of a backyard watershape environment requires careful and clear coordination – and sensitivity to the fact that watching the process unfold can be unpleasant or even traumatic for your clients.

Without a doubt, the key to managing the process so that your clients don’t become unhappy requires purposeful, up-front communication that sets realistic expectations for how the project will progress – and when.  Similarly, you should also set up expectations for the inevitable

200306DT0By David Tisherman

I take a lot of pictures of my work – so many, in fact, that friends and colleagues often tease me about it.

Chief among those antagonists are my Genesis 3 compatriots, Brian Van Bower and Skip Phillips, who have a running joke about how I always have a slide show ready, whether it’s two in the morning in my home or off in some location far removed from classrooms or offices.

And it’s true:  Because I shoot 35-mm slides of every aspect of every one of my projects, I usually

200306BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Last month, I began a discussion of things that those of us in the watershaping trades can do to improve our collective profile with the public – not to mention enhance our collective self-image.

Education, of course, is a huge factor.  And so is the level of professional courtesy with which we treat both clients and prospects.  But those two points, discussed in detail last time, have less to do with the way we approach the practicalities of our businesses than is the case with another point that bears discussion:  that is, project management and how we

200305BVB0By Brian Van Bower

During a presentation to a recent conference for the swimming pool and spa industry, I tossed this nugget to the audience:  “By a show of hands, how many of you in this room believe that most people think highly of our industry?  Please be honest.”

It was a mixed group of more than 160 people representing manufacturers, distributors, manufacturer’s representatives, retailers, service/maintenance firms and, in the majority, pool and spa builders.  Even with all of these different segments of the industry in the room, not a single hand went up.

As one who often

b_400_400_16777215_00_images_archart_200304Bower_200304BVB0.jpgBy Brian Van Bower

Why is it that, on the pool/spa side of the watershaping business, it’s so difficult to find much by way of truly workable plans and specifications?

In residential work, of course, the tone is set by local building inspectors and plan checkers, whose needs seem to vary tremendously from place to place.  But that’s no excuse for the fact that the plans used in a great many residential projects are grossly inadequate – especially when compared to the far more detailed and precise plans and specifications required by

200412PS0
Watershaping has come a long way in the past half dozen years – a journey of artistry and practicality that has been an inspiration to witness.  In this retrospective feature, WaterShapes Editor Eric Herman reviews 25 key projects published during that time frame, offering an ongoing resource to watershapers while defining a Platinum Standard for the designers, engineers, builders and artists who use water as their chosen medium.

 

 

By Eric Herman

More than ever before, the highest expressions of the craft of watershaping deserve to be recognized for what they are:  works of art.

Through the past six years, WaterShapes has covered the broadest imaginable range of water-related projects, covering everything from birdbaths to man-made lakes as a means of defining the possibilities inherent in the medium and, we have always hoped, of inspiring all of our readers to reach for greater and greater quality and creativity in their endeavors. 

As a means of codifying and celebrating this effort, we’re pleased and proud to highlight 25 previously published projects that qualify as the essence of what we’ve elected to call The Platinum Standard.

These projects were selected from issues published from February 1999 to June 2004 and represent the full watershape spectrum – swimming pools, spas, fountains, ponds, streams, cascades, interactive waterfeatures, sculptures and monuments of all shapes, sizes and varieties.  No matter the specific form, what they all have in common is the fact that they’re unquestionably outstanding, each one a watershape that illustrates the vision, passion and raw creative energy increasingly being brought to bear by practitioners who see themselves as artists in water.  

This recapitulation is offered not as an award program or a ranking of industry leaders, but as an expression of extraordinary artistry and vision that may be said to represent the best our industry has to offer.  It is indeed an extraordinary assemblage:  You certainly will recognize individual projects from past issues, but we urge you to consider all 25 of them as a powerful collective statement about what has been accomplished – and as a declaration of what more can be accomplished in years to come.

Please accept this as a gift from us at the magazine to you, our readers, who’ve watched WaterShapes from its first issue and have helped make it so useful and valuable to the industry’s progress.  We hope that, in revisiting these projects, you’ll find an idea or two (or twenty) that you can apply in your work and that some of that work ultimately will find its way into our next exploration of The Platinum Standard.

Enjoy!

By Eric Herman

 

Watershaping has come a long way in the past half dozen years – a journey of artistry and practicality that has been an inspiration to witness.  In this retrospective feature, WaterShapes Editor Eric Herman reviews 25 key projects published during that time frame, offering an ongoing resource to watershapers while defining a Platinum Standard for the designers, engineers, builders and artists who use water as their chosen medium.

 

More than ever before, the highest expressions of the craft of watershaping deserve to be recognized for what they are:  works of art.

 

Through the past six years, WaterShapes has covered the broadest imaginable range of water-related projects, covering everything from birdbaths to man-made lakes as a means of defining the possibilities inherent in the medium and, we have always hoped, of inspiring all of our readers to reach for greater and greater quality and creativity in their endeavors. 

 

As a means of codifying and celebrating this effort, we’re pleased and proud to highlight 25 previously published projects that qualify as the essence of what we’ve elected to call The Platinum Standard.

 

These projects were selected from issues published from February 1999 to June 2004 and represent the full watershape spectrum – swimming pools, spas, fountains, ponds, streams, cascades, interactive waterfeatures, sculptures and monuments of all shapes, sizes and varieties.  No matter the specific form, what they all have in common is the fact that they’re unquestionably outstanding, each one a watershape that illustrates the vision, passion and raw creative energy increasingly being brought to bear by practitioners who see themselves as artists in water.   

 

This recapitulation is offered not as an award program or a ranking of industry leaders, but as an expression of extraordinary artistry and vision that may be said to represent the best our industry has to offer.  It is indeed an extraordinary assemblage:  You certainly will recognize individual projects from past issues, but we urge you to consider all 25 of them as a powerful collective statement about what has been accomplished – and as a declaration of what more can be accomplished in years to come.

 

Please accept this as a gift from us at the magazine to you, our readers, who’ve watched WaterShapes from its first issue and have helped make it so useful and valuable to the industry’s progress.  We hope that, in revisiting these projects, you’ll find an idea or two (or twenty) that you can apply in your work and that some of that work ultimately will find its way into our next exploration of The Platinum Standard.

 

Enjoy!

200412BVB0By Brian Van Bower

“To succeed in business or in life, I don’t think you need fancy schooling or highly technical experience.  What I think you need is common sense, a commitment to hard work and the courage to go your own way.”
-- Robert Mondavi

That statement from Robert Mondavi’s autobiography truly inspires me.  Since I first read those words, I’ve become keenly aware of how this and other things he says about his career in the wine industry apply not only to

200411DT0By David Tisherman

Recently, I’ve been involved in the early stages of a project that has lent new meaning to the phrase, “seeing is believing.”  It came up as a result of a call from an agent for a well-heeled client who was interested in having me design and build a residential swimming pool in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.   

When I arrived in Texas, I was met by the owner’s agent, David, and by Marcus Bowen, a landscape architect who was part of the large project team, which, I would learn, included architects, a landscape architect, an interior designer, a lighting designer, various engineers, numerous

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