WaterShapes

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

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

Read more: Alternating and Direct

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

Read more: Images in Motion

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

Read more: Shocking Truths

The Unfolding Garden

It’s why art museums are arranged in spatial sequences and why so many people love reading mystery novels:  That excitement of discovery is a powerful tool used to create drama and interest for the observer or reader.  So, too, says landscape designer Bobbie Schwartz, watershapers can lend welcome elements of surprise and wonder to their work, creating spatial experiences that unfold as clients approach or wander near the water’s edge.
It’s why art museums are arranged in spatial sequences and why so many people love reading mystery novels: That excitement of discovery is a powerful tool used to create drama and interest for the observer or reader. So, too, says landscape designer Bobbie Schwartz, watershapers can lend welcome elements of surprise and wonder to their work, creating spatial experiences that unfold as clients approach or wander near the water’s edge.
By Bobbie Schwartz

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

Read more: The Unfolding Garden

Giving a Dam Its Due

200004JM0By Jim McNicol

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

Read more: Giving a Dam Its Due

Horses to Engines

200002JM0By Jim McNicol

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

Read more: Horses to Engines

A Prairie Experience

3-19 travelogue art 2By Jim McCloskey

It’s been a number of years since I’ve managed to visit Chicago, but I want to get back sometime soon.  After all, I have yet to see the Crown Fountain in person (let alone the rest of Millennium Park), and I haven’t visited the Chicago Botanic Garden in more than 30 years!

The last time I was in the Windy City with any time to spare, it was 2002 and I was attending

Read more: A Prairie Experience

Art for Art's Sake

Draped across a mountaintop overlooking Los Angeles, the Getty Center is truly monumental.  But if you can wrest your attention from the outsized galleries and imposing offices and endure the always-large population of visitors, you find yourself in spaces uniquely moderated and defined by the use of water – as decoration, as diversion and as counterbalance to the gleaming, hard-edged structures that surround you.
Draped across a mountaintop overlooking Los Angeles, the Getty Center is truly monumental. But if you can wrest your attention from the outsized galleries and imposing offices and endure the always-large population of visitors, you find yourself in spaces uniquely moderated and defined by the use of water – as decoration, as diversion and as counterbalance to the gleaming, hard-edged structures that surround you.
By Jim McCloskey

The Getty Center is a true multi-media experience:  imposing architecture, lots of people, incredible materials of construction, amazing views, diverse spaces, rich and varied sounds – and it’s mostly all a bonus, because none of this has much to do with the Los Angeles center’s core functions as museum and research institution.

Designed by architect Richard Meier, the 750-acre campus is dominated by outsized structures wrapped in travertine, glass and enameled aluminum.  It’s all a bit cold (maybe time will soften the sharper edges and

Read more: Art for Art's Sake

A Layered Approach

200101JM0By Jim McNicol

A little more than 100 years ago, in the first big growth spurt in the use of electricity, the harsh realities of the hazards involved with it quickly became apparent.  Fires were common occurrences everywhere electricity was distributed, and serious (and often fatal) accidents made daily headlines wherever people came into contact with this wondrous phenomenon.   

Virtually all of the electric works being built in those early days were set up to provide lighting for a population tired of living in the gloom of candles, gas lamps and coal-oil lanterns.  That meant that

Read more: A Layered Approach

Water Everywhere

For more than four centuries, Italy’s Villa d’Este has inspired designers and most everyone else who has visited the site.  Landscape architect and contractor Mark Holden, for one, has had a career-long interest in the legendary estate and takes this opportunity to share his love of its amazing architecture and gardens – all with the intention of highlighting design concepts today’s watershapers can use in creating their own masterworks.
For more than four centuries, Italy’s Villa d’Este has inspired designers and most everyone else who has visited the site. Landscape architect and contractor Mark Holden, for one, has had a career-long interest in the legendary estate and takes this opportunity to share his love of its amazing architecture and gardens – all with the intention of highlighting design concepts today’s watershapers can use in creating their own masterworks.
By Mark Holden

We’ve all heard and read how important it is to study the achievements of our predecessors in watershape design and engineering.  Indeed, exploring these historic works is vital for the role it plays in emboldening our sense of artistic tradition and inspiring our creativity by offering rich galleries of design ideas.  

When considering Villa d’Este in such light – its extraordinary architecture, otherworldly gardens and daring watershape designs – it’s easy to see why this grand estate is so important to us now.  It’s widely considered to be the most significant residence surviving from the Renaissance and has every right to claim to be the most beautiful and influential as well.

Surely there’s no substitute for traveling there and lingering with eyes wide open, but even from afar, we can and should turn to this amazing estate as a source of artistic inspiration and, in many respects, as a technical blueprint.   

A COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAM

These days, most of us are more familiar with Bellagio than we are with Villa d’Este, upon which the spectacular Las Vegas hotel was patterned.  Even with

Read more: Water Everywhere

Thoughts for the Eyes

The balancing of plant and stone, a layering of views, the use of perspective, a careful plotting of footpaths and the subtle use of water:  All these come together in Japanese gardening, a form of expression that accounts for many of the world’s most beautiful and elegant man-made spaces.  Among the finest of these works of art, says Douglas M. Roth, publisher and editor of The Journal of Japanese Gardening, one stands out:  Katsura Rikyu.
The balancing of plant and stone, a layering of views, the use of perspective, a careful plotting of footpaths and the subtle use of water: All these come together in Japanese gardening, a form of expression that accounts for many of the world’s most beautiful and elegant man-made spaces. Among the finest of these works of art, says Douglas M. Roth, publisher and editor of The Journal of Japanese Gardening, one stands out: Katsura Rikyu.
By Douglas M. Roth

Home to some of the world’s greatest outdoor spaces, Kyoto, Japan, is a garden lover’s heaven.  If you make the trip, however, there is one garden that stands above all others – an aesthetic treasure, a nature-inspired garden masterpiece that is quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

Owned by the Japanese imperial family, Katsura Rikyu (pronounced kah-tsu-rah ree-kyu) is an estate in Western Kyoto near the Katsura River.  Rikyu means “detached palace,” but that translation is a little misleading to English speakers, because the estate does not

Read more: Thoughts for the Eyes

A Seaside Classic

Some objects or places have a unique ability to capture the mood and essence of a time and place.  The swimming pool at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami is one of them, a reflection of the lifestyle that has for generations made South Florida a magnet for starlets and stargazers alike.  Here, watershape designer and builder Brian Van Bower pays tribute to this classic – one of the most beautiful swimming pools ever built.
Some objects or places have a unique ability to capture the mood and essence of a time and place. The swimming pool at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami is one of them, a reflection of the lifestyle that has for generations made South Florida a magnet for starlets and stargazers alike. Here, watershape designer and builder Brian Van Bower pays tribute to this classic – one of the most beautiful swimming pools ever built.
By Brian Van Bower

It’s a grand watershape built at a time and place when “grand” was in fashion in so many ways.  Ever since 1940, when the Raleigh Hotel and its beautiful swimming pool opened to the public for the first time, the establishment has made a statement about the sun-drenched glory of a prime South Florida location as well as the glamour of an era gone by.

Designed and built by renowned architect L. Murray Dixon, the hotel and pool are located in South Beach, Miami’s famed Art Deco district.  The pool’s curvaceous shape and modern styling reflected the hotel’s architecture and the aspirations of the times.  As the ’40s wore on, it would become a swimming pool that was perfectly in sync with the world around it.

When Miami boomed in the years following World War II, the hotel did, too.  Vacationers and snowbirds from the great cities of the Northeast arrived in droves, looking for a new kind of excitement and an entirely different sort of glamour of the kind that featured

Read more: A Seaside Classic

Pocket Park's Glory

2-19 travelogue art 2By Jim McCloskey

As mentioned previously, I’ve traveled to Seattle with fair frequency through the past few years.  Mostly I’m there to visit my mother on Bainbridge Island, but I’ve also given myself enough time to explore the area that I almost know my way around the city and its many public watershapes.

On one trip a couple years back, I took the usual ferry ride from the island back to Seattle on my way to the airport, arriving in plenty of time for a leisurely stroll from the boat terminal to the metro station a few blocks away.

My semi-roundabout path took me right by Pioneer Square, a place

Read more: Pocket Park's Glory

You are here: Home ARTICLES Travelogues/History