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200206DT0By David Tisherman

In one way or another, visual acceptance is what makes our world go around.   

Think about the clothes we wear, the cars we admire, the foods we eat – not to mention interior design, home and office furnishings, landscapes and watershapes.  So much of our response to these and other features of our environment is based on the visual.  It may sometimes be a shallow response, but human beings tend to like things that look good, even if they don’t completely understand why some things are visually appealing and others are not.

Design education teaches us that

200205DT0By David Tisherman

Of all the things I’ve learned in my work as a watershape designer and builder, one particular point stands out:  When it comes to ensuring quality results and a project’s success, there’s absolutely no substitute for good supervision!

I say this knowing that most job sites run by people in the pool industry are inadequately supervised if they’re supervised at all.  Yet experience shows, time and time again, that while complete, professional plans are part of success and that great subcontractors are essential, constant oversight is the absolute

200203BVB0By Brian Van Bower

One of my least favorite activities is testifying as an expert witness in legal disputes over watershaping projects gone awry.

As a rule, I try to stay out of courtrooms for any reason, but from time to time, I reluctantly agree to offer my opinion as a witness if I think I can help generate a fair outcome.  Despite my best intentions, however, I seldom see it as time well spent.

The process is often stressful, and I know deep down, regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong, that lawsuits are

200202BVB0By Brian Van Bower

At nearly five months and counting, it’s clear that many of us are still trying to sort out, understand and learn to live with the events of September 11, 2001 – and I suspect that, on some levels, we will be doing so for months or even years to come.

Over and over again, we’ve been told how our lives are now different.  Although it’ll still take us a while to find out what “different” really means, we know already that we’ve lost a certain amount of innocence.  We’ve also lost a certain naiveté about the way things are in the wide world and are now reevaluating many things, from big important issues such as airport security to more modest concerns such as

200201BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Whenever I’d call my mother on the phone when I was a kid, she’d start the conversation by asking me, “Are you smiling?”

Back then, I never gave her greeting too much thought because that’s what young people do:  They ignore their parents’ wisdom until they realize at some point just how smart the old folks could be.  As I’ve grown older and gained experience in business and life in general, it has occurred to me that my mom’s question is important and even a bit profound.  

At first blush, this notion of smiling on the phone is sort of silly.  After all, no one sees your face when you’re on the phone, so who cares about the expression on your face?  But the truth is, this question of whether or not you’re smiling on the phone has everything to do with

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