WaterShapes

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The Illuminating Past

200807MH0By Mark Holden

What’s the use of knowing about history?

For many of us, the answer to that question seems so obvious that it comes as a shock to find out just how many people in the watershaping and landscape fields don’t grasp the all-encompassing significance of our collective past – but it shouldn’t.

Using my own career as an example – and even though I now spend a considerable amount of my time teaching professionals and university students all about art and architectural history – I confess that I waltzed through more than a few early years as an aspiring landscape architect and watershaper in blissful ignorance of

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Wondrous Trouble

b_400_400_16777215_00_images_9-25_travelogue_art_9-25_travelogue_art_0.JPGBy Jim McCloskey

I’ve been a student of California history for many years – and particularly of its water history.

I was hooked as far back as the sixth grade, when I wrote a big report on the California Water Project and how we were, in the 1960s, just beginning to move water from the Feather River in northern California and feed it by circuitous means to

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National Wonders

As is true of many of his fellow watershape and landscape artists, Rick Driemeyer is also an avid explorer of nature.  For years, in fact, he’s made a practice of regularly visiting wilderness areas for both professional inspiration as well as pure enjoyment – a perfect pairing, as he sees it.  To press that point here in a big way, he shares what he’s encountered in hiking through four of the most spectacular national parks in the western United States.
As is true of many of his fellow watershape and landscape artists, Rick Driemeyer is also an avid explorer of nature. For years, in fact, he’s made a practice of regularly visiting wilderness areas for both professional inspiration as well as pure enjoyment – a perfect pairing, as he sees it. To press that point here in a big way, he shares what he’s encountered in hiking through four of the most spectacular national parks in the western United States.
By Rick Driemeyer

By now, the thought that watershape and landscape designers need to study nature if they want to replicate it in their projects is basically a cliché.  Truly, if you want to mimic nature successfully, you must first know it intimately.  

What many miss in all this, I believe, is a deeper level of “knowing” that goes well beyond simply observing nature as a source of techniques and ideas.  Frankly, I think that as designers and as human beings, we are much better off when we also learn how to become nature – by which I mean letting the sights, sounds and smells draw us physically into the place.  

In doing so, we engage in experiences so profound that the mere mentioning of that place will set us off with memories we will share enthusiastically – or can use as parts of our latest projects.   

No matter how often I visit natural places, I’m always amazed at the

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Recent comments

  • Rick, I couldn't agree more with what you say about your design process and deeper ways of learning from nature. My study began with an apprenticeship in Kyoto, Japan in 1971-72 Over the years since then I have like you visited national parks and found sources of inspiration for my gardens. So it se...
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Breathtaking Beauty

For nearly 150 years, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis has been a delight to those who’ve visited its array of garden types and styles.  During the last 30 of those years, many of these areas have been augmented by the addition of waterfeatures and fountains, notes Kerry Friedman of Hydro Dramatics, a company that has worked hand in hand with facility managers and sponsors to bring new interest and special excitement to the grounds.
For nearly 150 years, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis has been a delight to those who’ve visited its array of garden types and styles. During the last 30 of those years, many of these areas have been augmented by the addition of waterfeatures and fountains, notes Kerry Friedman of Hydro Dramatics, a company that has worked hand in hand with facility managers and sponsors to bring new interest and special excitement to the grounds.
By Kerry Friedman

‘Any time that you can introduce water or the sound of water into an environment, the space is instantly transformed.’Geoffrey Lew Rausch, FASLA, 2006 recipient of the Henry Shaw Medal for his work at the Missouri Botanical Garden

 

During the past three decades, the Missouri Botanical Garden has undergone a wonderful transformation, and much of it has been about water.

In that span, more than a dozen fountains and waterfeatures have been added to the 79-acre grounds of what many have long been considered to be one of the top three public gardens in the world – and happily, our firm, Hydro Dramatics of St. Louis, has had the privilege of working on all of them as project leaders.   

These installations have ranged from the simple to the complex.  Whether serene or splashing, barely bubbling or shooting skyward, our work has added a unique spirit and drama to many already-beautiful sites.  In addition, they’ve involved us in memorable collaborations with the garden’s creative staff, generous sponsors and the more than 850,000 people who come to the garden annually.   

For our part, the diversity of the watershapes

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Running Wild

Wikipedia:  Wesley Fryer
Wikipedia: Wesley Fryer
By Jim McCloskey

I confess to having a weakness for this sort of fountain:  There’s probably something about the mixture of water and “animated” sculpture that grabs my imagination in a way that isn’t true of many large-scale water displays.

It this case, it may also have something to do with serendipity and the fact that, the first time I saw this composition, I came upon it entirely by chance.  It was about ten years ago, while I was in Irving, Texas, for a series of meetings and had part of a day to myself to walk around and take in the nearby sights.

It was early in the morning when a view of Williams Square opened up and I saw

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Finding China

The features, traditions and character of Chinese garden design are generally unfamiliar to most Westerners – and that’s a shame, says watergarden designer Rick Anderson, because they are an art form all their own.  He recently traveled to China to learn more about these unusual spaces and to explore the natural beauty of the Yangtze River’s valley and here shares his observations and inspirations.
The features, traditions and character of Chinese garden design are generally unfamiliar to most Westerners – and that’s a shame, says watergarden designer Rick Anderson, because they are an art form all their own. He recently traveled to China to learn more about these unusual spaces and to explore the natural beauty of the Yangtze River’s valley and here shares his observations and inspirations.
By Rick Anderson

Many years have passed since I first saw pictures of China, but my desire to travel to the Giant of the Orient has never waned.

In recent years, in fact, that interest grew ever stronger as I watched all the new information emerging from China as it has slowly opened itself to the Western world.  I’ve been particularly fascinated by documentaries on the Yangtze River and The Great Dam that China is building to manage its floodwaters.

This past spring, I visited China to see its amazing gardens with my own eyes and travel down the Yangtze through the fabled Three Gorges and the Lesser Three Gorges.  I went seeking inspiration and came back with more than my quota of thoughts on the mysteriousness and tantalizing vagueness with which

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Temperate Thoughts

7-24 travelogue art 1By Jim McCloskey

Once while visiting our nation’s capital, I walked past an odd-looking fountain that really didn’t make much of an impression at the time.  Silly me, because of all the fountains and other watershapes I’ve seen, this one turns out to have one of the most weirdly interesting stories I’ve ever encountered.

This isn’t one of the

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Upside-Down, Anyone?

6-19 travelogue 0By Jim McCloskey

I was the third of four McCloskey children to attend UCLA.  All three of my sisters went there, two of them before me, one after.  

My middle sister, Susan, started in the fall of 1968, and I recall that there was quite a buzz about this weird new fountain that had just been commissioned on one of the campus’ many plazas:  It was essentially upside-down, with water flowing from the edges toward an off-centered well, and it soon became known as the Inverted Fountain.

I was 13 or 14 the first time I saw it.  I’d gone with Susan to some on-campus event, and she gave me a brief tour of the place – including the plaza with the weird new fountain.  At that point

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Big-Shouldered Fountain

5-22 travelogue art dayBy Jim McCloskey

My family moved away from Chicago when I was just four years old, but I have three vivid, very specific memories of the place:  icicles hanging from the eaves of our home in Evanston; the long freight trains that ran constantly on tracks at the far edge of the open field across the street; and Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago’s Grant Park.

When I returned to the Windy City on business in the early 1980s (several years before I became directly involved with watershaping), it wasn’t to Evanston I went; instead, once I’d checked into my hotel on that bright spring day, I made a beeline to the

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Down to the River

Inspired by a source no less prominent than the hugely popular San Antonio Riverwalk, the citizens of an old Colorado steel town have invested $24 million in a project they call HARP – the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo.  The project has transformed the town’s rusty image, says landscape architect Donald Brandes, and sums up the benefits of thoughtful watershaping on the grandest possible scale.
Inspired by a source no less prominent than the hugely popular San Antonio Riverwalk, the citizens of an old Colorado steel town have invested $24 million in a project they call HARP – the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo. The project has transformed the town’s rusty image, says landscape architect Donald Brandes, and sums up the benefits of thoughtful watershaping on the grandest possible scale.
By Donald H. Brandes, Jr.

In 1921, a flood rolled into Pueblo, Colo., submerging the civic center beneath 11 feet of water and leaving more than 100 people dead.  To prevent the recurrence of such disasters, engineers came to town, diverted the river along a different path and encased it in underground levees several blocks away.

Seventy years later, a grand project known locally as HARP – the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo – undertook to restore the historic course of the Arkansas River and make it the centerpiece of a 26-acre downtown park.  

HARP re-creates 2,220 linear feet of the historic river in concrete-lined (yet naturalistic) channels.  Nearing completion after ten years, the urban park will include 3,300 linear feet of navigable waterway for use by water taxis and pleasure boats as well as dramatic fountains; more than a mile of promenades and other walkways; a two-acre lake; and an outdoor environmental-education center.

It has been a massive undertaking, as befits a project aimed at revitalizing an entire city.  For the watershaping community, the project stands as an example of the truly transforming effect that

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Exotically American

4-24 travelogue artBy Jim McCloskey

I visited Washington, D.C., for the first time in 1978.  I had stopped there to visit my brother, who was living there at that time, and was intent on seeing as much as I could before heading back home to California after many months of travel that had carried me all over the northeastern United States and Europe.  

I had been born in the district 22 years earlier, but my family

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The Birth of a Dream

4-24 dirsmith essentialBy Suzanne & Ron Dirsmith

It’s speculated that the exterior spaces at Playboy Mansion West must be the most photographed in the world.  

That’s hard to quantify, of course, but it’s certainly safe to say that since construction began in the 1970s, the home of publisher Hugh Hefner and its famous swimming pool and grotto have been used ceaselessly to promote

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Recent comments

  • Thanks, Jim ... You brought back many fond memories. In fact we're doing another project in Chicago that is even more of a dream. As Hefner told us when we started: “ I would like this place to be something that nobody else has, and everybody can dream of having: a fantasy land, a dream land, just...
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A Recipe for Jambalaya

4-10 ewen travelogueBy Les Ewen

Truly a large-scale project full of unique technical challenges in an unusual and important civic setting, the renovation of the watershapes at Jambalaya Park in Gonzalez, La., is easily the most unusual project our firm has ever tackled.

The park covers seven beautifully wooded acres in an older section of town that’s mostly residential but sits directly behind

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