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200404BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Over and over at seminars and trade shows, watershapers ask me three distinct but interrelated questions:  “How do you get into the high-end market?” and “How do you deal with wealthy customers?” and “How do you handle those kinds of jobs?”

The short answer to all of them is that I’ve set myself up for it and am prepared to tackle these projects and clients as they come.  To me, it’s as natural as breathing.  

The deeper answer is much more complicated, obviously, and has to do with my understanding that working with upper echelon clients means accommodating an entire range of issues that

200403BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Many have asked me how it is that my work is published so often.  I’m not talking about this column, which is about what I do and occasionally depicts my work to illustrate a point I’m making about what we do as watershapers.  Rather, the question’s about my projects making their ways into books and consumer magazines and other media beyond WaterShapes.  

The short answer is that I focus on garnering this sort of exposure and have actively cultivated it through the years.  As is the case with anything else you do to draw positive attention to your business, seeking to have your work published in a book or magazine takes time and effort and an understanding of what working with writers and editors is all about.

The benefits of

200402BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Last month, 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.  

In doing so, we navigated our through a mixed bag of factors – advancing technology, interesting economic times and complex legal conditions on the grand scale up alongside local, narrower issues having to do with the emergence of the watershaping business, the wayward nature of trade associations and the state of relevant education for our trades.  

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.  Pure prognostication, however, is an imperfect process in which I won’t indulge.  Rather than get into the aimless game of offering predictions, I’ll delve instead into

200401BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Some might say we’re enduring the curse of living in interesting times; others might opine that the planet’s just plain gone crazy.  However you look at it, when you stop to consider what’s been going on in the world, in our country and in the economy and how all of that relates to our watershaping corner of the universe, it’s easy to see that important trends and even greater forces are constantly sweeping around us.

So much is happening that it’s often difficult to figure things out, but the most important observation I can make is that not all the news is gloomy – far from it.  For a great many watershapers, in fact, business has thrived in recent times and expanded in new and exciting directions.  That’s so true for some that it’s fair to say that there’s been little or no time left for reflection.

But I would argue that finding time to

As watershape designs become increasingly creative and complex, the demand for more precise methods of engineering their structures has grown as well. To meet that need, observe Ron Lacher and Aaron Cowen of Pool Engineering, experts like them are turning to advanced three-dimensional modeling technology – systems so sophisticated that they make it possible to develop plans for daring projects such as they one they describe here.
As watershape designs become increasingly creative and complex, the demand for more precise methods of engineering their structures has grown as well.  To meet that need, observe Ron Lacher and Aaron Cowen of Pool Engineering, experts like them are turning to advanced three-dimensional modeling technology – systems so sophisticated that they make it possible to develop plans for daring projects such as they one they describe here.
By Ron Lacher & Aaron Cowen

As watershape designs become increasingly creative and complex, the demand for more precise methods of engineering their structures has grown as well.  To meet that need, observe Ron Lacher and Aaron Cowen of Pool Engineering, experts like them are turning to advanced three-dimensional modeling technology – systems so sophisticated that they make it possible to develop plans for daring projects such as they one they describe here.     

It’s easily the most sophisticated watershape structure we’ve ever engineered.

The pool/spa combination, not yet built, will rise some 50 feet above grade on a cliff behind a home in the densely populated Hollywood Hills near downtown Los Angeles.  As conceived, the vanishing-edge pool will sit a full ten feet below the spa in a complex monolithic structure.  Supporting the entire affair will be

200511SRC0By Stephanie Rose

In the October 2005 issue of WaterShapes, I discussed a project that had tested my abilities and helped me to grow as a landscape designer.  

To that point in my career, I had functioned mainly as a designer focused on planting design.  It was quite a step for me to accept the greater responsibility that came with a project that put me in charge of work on the total environment – pool, spa, deck, outdoor amenities and artwork placement as well as the planting plan.

I knew going in that project management is a challenge no matter the size or scale of the job.  Coordinating various trades, anticipating schedules and materials needs, making on-site design decisions and covering all

200511BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Robert Frost once wrote, “I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference.”

As we approach the New Year, I can’t think of a more fitting theme for the watershaping industry.  If we consider where we were just ten years ago and compare that situation to the world in which we live and work today, it’s clear that the industry as a whole has changed immeasurably – and, I think, for the good.

I can say further and without fear of contradiction that those who have embraced the “road less traveled” and faced the future with creativity, hope and optimism have flourished, while those who have clung to the paradigms of the past are not so well positioned to

200510DT0By David Tisherman

If there’s one thought that permeates every page, every word and every photograph in this publication, it is this:  The creation of something outstanding, something that stirs an emotional response, something that establishes an ongoing, extraordinary experience for clients and anyone else who sees our work all starts with the passion we have in our hearts for art and its intimate relationship to what we do as watershapers.  

That’s a big concept.  Really big.  And I believe that unless you appreciate and (on some level) understand the raw power of artistic creation, then what you generate will seldom be

200510SR0By Stephanie Rose

It’d be great if every project I was asked to tackle were about the complete environment – not only the planting plan, but also the watershapes, artworks, amenities and everything else a client might desire.
 
That doesn’t happen often enough, probably because my portfolio is much richer in planting plans than it is in watershapes.  But from time to time I find clients who have faith in me and my abilities as a designer and give me total control.

Late last year, I was fortunate enough to come across one such project.  I had originally been brought in to

200510BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Through the years, more than a few watershaping professionals have asked me how to break through and start working with high-end clients.  

I respond by giving them the disappointing news that there is no magic key here:  Serving the high end takes commitment, hard work and a willingness to focus your thinking on a distinct set of fundamentals that must take over and guide your work.  Depending on the level at which you’re currently functioning, getting to the high end may involve climbing a mountain or might simply be about making a series of

200509BVB0By Brian Van Bower

I’ve always been puzzled by people who look at money as a taboo topic.  

Within any form of business, of course, competitors are restricted by federal anti-trust laws from getting specific in discussions of pricing, overhead and profit margins.  But it’s always seemed to me that understanding those factors in broad, general terms (which are legally discussable, by the way) is at the core of the success of any business – especially in the world of contracting.

The reason pricing, overhead and margins are so critical is that they reflect your core values and those of your company with respect to both money and overall business philosophy.  It’s my informed view that too many contractors severely

Quality watershapes, says landscape architect, contractor and teacher Mark Holden, generally start with quality plans. That’s why he’s become such a strong advocate for increased detail and a more representative level of professionalism in the industry’s construction documents. As he explains here, there are some basic, common features that should be present in plans for watershapes of all descriptions, types, shapes and sizes.
Quality watershapes, says landscape architect, contractor and teacher Mark Holden, generally start with quality plans.  That’s why he’s become such a strong advocate for increased detail and a more representative level of professionalism in the industry’s construction documents.  As he explains here, there are some basic, common features that should be present in plans for watershapes of all descriptions, types, shapes and sizes.
By Mark Holden

As the fields of landscape architecture and watershaping intermingle, the knowledge bases for each trade increasingly need to be shared across various design, engineering and construction disciplines.  

That sharing, unfortunately, has been relatively slow to develop, which means that, as a designer and builder and of custom high-end watershape and landscape projects, I am often frustrated by the lack of detail I find in plans and specifications generated on all levels of the trade.  Although this deficiency flows freely from all sectors, the most frequent sources of inadequacy in watershape plans are landscape architects and designers, too many of whom offer information that is disturbingly vague and thoroughly lacking in detail.  

We’ve all seen the blue patch on the overhead plan view – a grossly inadequate delineation of a significant design component if ever there was one.  Contractors presented with such documentation are left to define specific details themselves and essentially are asked to build some version of that blue patch as they

200508SR0By Stephanie Rose

Please forgive me as I revisit themes from a couple of my past columns.  One was written earlier this year on why we do what we do, while the other was published several years ago – back when I first began writing for WaterShapes – and was all about a subject dear to my heart:  roses.

Recent events in my family have given me time and the need to sort through the past, and the experience has deepened my appreciation of gardens, their emotional power and how they come to reflect our clients and ourselves.  I’d like to share this process of discovery to define what I see as the essence of what we all try to do as professionals – and encourage all of you to

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