Travelogues & History

The Unfolding Garden
As adults, we too often forget one of the great joys of childhood - the sense of wonder and discovery we experienced when we first saw the ocean or flew in an airplane and the world opened and unfolded before our very eyes. As designers, I believe we similarly forget about the excitement that comes with discovery.  Too often, we lay out beautiful lines and incorporate interesting and unusual plant and hardscape material for everyone to see all at once.  The work may be beautiful, but it leaves little or nothing to the imagination and offers no surprises. I can't help thinking how much more our landscapes, public and private, would be savored if they were to be explored and discovered bit by bit.  This is especially true for spaces containing watershapes, which by themselves lend interest and drama to almost any space:  The magic of water can (and I believe should) be exploited by concealing it at first and then revealing it in a way that gives the viewer a brief moment of visual revelation. To see what I mean with respect to watershapes and waterscapes, let's explore an approach that makes seeing everything immediately an impossibility.  Instead, this approach offers glimpses that tantalize and intrigue - and can be seen in the work of thoughtful garden designers who've manipulated sights and sounds around the
Giving a Dam Its Due
Each year, the National Spa & Pool Institute offers special programs in conjunction with its International Expo.  Most years, these programs include tours of local places of interest, such as notable museums, historical sites, outstanding examples of local architecture and the like.  With the Expo in Las Vegas last December, NSPI took advantage of the location and included a tour of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, a scant 30 miles from the glitz and glitter of The Strip.   More than100
Horses to Engines
When I first begin to do research for a column, I really have little control over the direction I might take. If it's a cut-and-dried technical subject where I'll be dealing primarily with solid, scientific facts, the task is relatively simple.  Using my own textbooks, two local libraries and the Internet, I look for my subject matter in a minimum of three separate sources.  If the information is identical in each selected source, I feel pretty confident that I can use the data in an article. It isn't always so easy, however, and that's nobody's fault but
Back to the Garden
The gardening impulse of the Japanese is truly ancient.  In times before recorded history, sacred outdoor spaces around Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples were arranged according to this design vision.  And through more than 1,000 years of recorded history, gardens have been created and refined by priests, warriors and emperors alike in spaces both public and private. The style isn't original in the strictest sense:  In many ways, the gardens of Japan find their sources in Chinese gardening styles and landscape painting.  But the Japanese developed and refined their borrowings to fit their own national taste for subtle naturalism and elegant rusticity.  The result is an amazingly coherent and distinctive landscaping style that now can be experienced at hundreds of public gardens in Japan. The nice thing today is that you don't have to live in Tokyo to appreciate Japanese gardens - or to incorprate their principles into your designs. In fact, garden designers around the world now use the obvious elements of Japanese gardens - the stone lanterns, gravel and clipped azaleas - in naturalistic and asymmetrical settings of all shapes and sizes.  In some cases, the total look of the garden is Japanese; in others, its principles are used to
Images in Time
As designers and builders, we might feel with every new project that we have created the most profoundly original setting in the world.   In most cases, however, our most likely achievement has to do with adapting an architectural concept developed long ago, putting a modern twist on it and calling it our own.  For me, in fact, the more I learn about the history of watershaping, the more I feel connected to ancient watershapers and recognize that we haven't created anything really "new" in a long time. We all know clients, for instance, who want their backyards or public spaces to look like Spanish or Italian villas, French or English formal gardens, or maybe peaceful
The Secret Life of Extension Cords
During our last session, we explored the water-flow/electric-current-flow analogy and summed it up in a few sentences that are worth repeating:   •  Water:  The pressure created by the pump forces water to flow through the pipes and valves, overcoming the friction losses of the system.  Higher pressure provides for more gallons per minute. •  Electricity:  The voltage created by the battery forces electrons to flow through the wires and switches, overcoming the ohmic resistance of the circuit.  Higher voltage provides for more amperes.  (The short version of that is, "Volts push amps through ohms.") To be truly useful to us, we must know something about the way these three basic units relate to
Easier by Analogy
Several years ago, I was asked to conduct a seminar on basic electricity for the members of a small homeowners' association.  They were working their way alphabetically through the various trade disciplines with which a homeowner might come in contact.  As I recall, they had covered attic fans, brickwork, cabinetry, carpeting, decks and doors at previous meetings.  I learned that I was to be followed in coming months by fences, fireplaces and
Ben Franklin, Electrician
Why does the current flow? That was the question we left on the table at the end of our last session.  We had pretty well nailed down the ampere as being the basic unit of measurement of electric current, in that it describes the quantity of flow of electrons from one place to another.  We were about to examine the volt, the ohm and the watt when the current-flow question arose to command our attention. To get a firm handle on this, we are forced to backtrack a bit.  Actually, we have to go back a long, long way - about 60 million years, to when a particular species of pine-like trees grew along the Baltic coast.  Over the millennia, the resin from those trees became fossilized, producing the beautiful, beer-colored material called anbar by the
Terms in Currency
You don't have to be a football expert to sit in the stands on a nice fall day and watch the locals bash the visitors.  But to get the most from the festivities, it helps to know the difference between a two-point conversion and an on-side kick.  Being able to converse with your seatmates about the nickel defense and the single-wing offense surging back and forth before your eyes makes it even better.  The jargon isn't just for the players and sportscasters. Electricity is a bit like that.  Most of us are users, and most of us know some of the jargon despite the fact we don't work at a power plant.  We know that we have 12-volt batteries in our cars and that the porch light takes a 60-watt light bulb.  And for many folks, that's enough. I believe, however, that those of us who work with things electric on a larger scale can benefit from