WaterShapes

The web site for all professionals and consumers who've made or want to make water a part of their lives

On the Beach

b_400_400_16777215_00_images_7-23-14travelogue_7-23travelogueopener.jpgBy Jim McCloskey

One of the nicest days I’ve ever spent as publisher of WaterShapes came when I joined editor Eric Herman and our good friend William Rowley on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., one spring day in 2006.

Bill was working there on the resuscitation of the swimming pool at the old Marion Davies estate.  In the 1920s, she had been William Randolph Hearst’s paramour.  When she wanted a house built on

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An Odd One

6-25 travelogue artBy Jim McCloskey

In my various trips near and far, I’ve occasionally experienced fountains that function only sporadically.  If you’ll recall, for example, I wrote in December 2012 about Ricardo Legorreta’s purple aqueduct in Los Angeles’ Pershing Square, which, I’ve been told, runs only when the local water table permits it – which is why I had to visit the square

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A Windy City Wonder

5-21travelogueart3By Jim McCloskey

Some fountains are great because they are aesthetically amazing; others are on the less-spectacular side but have great stories or commemorate worthy persons or events.  Happily, still other fountains deliver the whole package:  They are beautiful to behold and intricately woven into their local histories and cultures.

One watershape in that

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Terms in Currency

199904JM0By Jim McNicol

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

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Ben Franklin, Electrician

199906JM0By Jim McNicol

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

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Easier by Analogy

199908JM0By Jim McNicol

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

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Images in Time

From the earliest urban settlements to the most modern architectural settings, watershapes have played both functional and decorative roles in expressing the values of their societies.  In the first of a series of articles on the lore of aquatic design, landscape architect and pool designer Mark Holden follows an introductory path that begins in ancient Greece and ends up in modern Las Vegas.
From the earliest urban settlements to the most modern architectural settings, watershapes have played both functional and decorative roles in expressing the values of their societies. In the first of a series of articles on the lore of aquatic design, landscape architect and pool designer Mark Holden follows an introductory path that begins in ancient Greece and ends up in modern Las Vegas.
By Mark Holden

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

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The Secret Life of Extension Cords

199910JM0By Jim McNicol

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

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Back to the Garden

As a design concept, Japanese gardens know no cultural or geographic borders:  Elements of this style of garden design have been exported throughout the world to shape exterior spaces of all sorts in both public and private settings.  Here, gardening and landscape design expert Elizabeth Navas Finley discusses the underlying principles of Japanese gardens, defining ways in which this simple approach to designing spaces can be put to use across a spectrum of applications.
As a design concept, Japanese gardens know no cultural or geographic borders: Elements of this style of garden design have been exported throughout the world to shape exterior spaces of all sorts in both public and private settings. Here, gardening and landscape design expert Elizabeth Navas Finley discusses the underlying principles of Japanese gardens, defining ways in which this simple approach to designing spaces can be put to use across a spectrum of applications.

By Elizabeth Navas Finley

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

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A Productive Rivalry

200009JM0By Jim McNicol

There is no doubt about it – during the later years of the 19th Century, Thomas Edison was “Mr. Electric” in this country, and the electricity he promoted was direct current (DC).  Last month, we took a look at the shortcomings of his DC system versus the alternating current (AC) distribution system that now serves us all so well.  Now let’s take a look at the personalities involved.

In 1876, using

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Alternating and Direct

200008JM0By Jim McNicol

We're all advised to change the batteries in our smoke detectors once each year. This is truly good and affordable advice, and most of us are happy to comply.

If you were to decide on a whim to replace all of the batteries in all of your battery-powered appliances or other devices that incorporate battery backup in their design on that mandated day, however, you might find the number of replacements surprising, the day a long one and the

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Images in Motion

No matter the time or place, we’ve always had a special relationship with moving water.  From the ancient Egyptians who set their calendars by the seasonal flooding of the Nile to the modern tourists who line up outside Bellagio in Las Vegas to watch its water shows, there’s a fascination that can’t be denied.  It’s also, says landscape architect/ pool builder Mark Holden, a past that should be explored by all contemporary watershapers.
No matter the time or place, we’ve always had a special relationship with moving water. From the ancient Egyptians who set their calendars by the seasonal flooding of the Nile to the modern tourists who line up outside Bellagio in Las Vegas to watch its water shows, there’s a fascination that can’t be denied. It’s also, says landscape architect/ pool builder Mark Holden, a past that should be explored by all contemporary watershapers.
By Mark Holden

Ever since the hydraulic principles of ancient Persia were ‘rediscovered’ by Europeans during the Renaissance, the sky has literally been the limit for watershape designers.  At the 17th-century Dutch Palace of Het Loo, for example, fountain jets that trace their developmental history at least as far back as 8th-century Persia make an emphatic statement about the power of those who commissioned them.

We all marvel, and rightly so, at the waterfeatures of Renaissance Italy, the pools of Versailles in France, the fountains of the

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Shocking Truths

200006JM0By Jim McNicol

In the spring of 1941, my mom and dad, my sister and I moved into our brand-new house on Ardmore Avenue in one of northwest Detroit’s real estate developments.  It was a thoroughly modern house, with all of the latest high-tech features – the garage door moved upward to open, instead of swinging left and right like barn doors, and the furnace in the basement was operated by natural gas, eliminating forever the need to shovel coal.  The house cost $5,550.

From an electrical standpoint, the house was up to the codes and standards of its day – albeit a far cry from what is required today.  The wiring was a two-wire system with no ground.  All of the receptacles had two equal-size slots, and that was just fine because anything we wished to plug into these receptacles had a two-pronged plug at the end of its cord.

A fuse panel in a bedroom closet contained four 15-amp fuses.  That was it:  four fuses to

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