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5-yrsBy Brian Van Bower

‘What if you were so bad at your job that a person in a related field decided, for the good of his own business, he had to learn your business and replace you rather than cope with your incompetence?’  That’s how Brian Van Bower eased his way into his Aqua Culture column in the May/June 2011 issue of WaterShapes.  ‘Most people,’ he continued, ‘would say that this would be a justified response to the fact that you do lousy work.’


‘Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), this very thing is happening in the pool industry – or, more accurately, to the pool industry.  For years now and with increasing frequency, landscape architects have decided they’ve had enough and are entering the pool industry.’


‘So now, rather than simply providing conceptual designs and turning them over to a pool builder to flesh out the skeleton and handle the installation – the longstanding normal state of affairs – more and more landscape architects are actively learning the technical specifics of watershape construction, and many have secured contractor’s licenses to perform the work themselves.’


‘The reasons for these migrations across industry lines are obvious.  No doubt some landscape professionals see opportunities for increased revenue in the expansion of their scope of work and expertise.  But right up there, so far as motivation is concerned, is that fact that almost every landscape architect I speak with has had an extremely negative experience with the mainstream pool industry.’  


‘I know for a plain fact that there are lots of fantastic pool designers and builders out there.  That said, what we have here is an industry that, overall, is so generally bad at what it does that professionals from a related field are moving in to fill the gap.’


‘Being the optimistic guy that I am, I don’t enjoy dwelling on the negative side of this discussion.  I regret what is happening within an industry to which I’ve dedicated most of my adult life.  . . .  The great thing is, for those of us on the positive, forward-looking side of the divide, that the presence especially of landscape architects among us spells opportunity in big, bold letters.’


‘For my part, I love the fact that landscape architects are generally polished and professional.  . . .  I also love the fact that they work in exterior spaces and often design wonderful settings for my watershapes.’


‘All of this requires flexibility and open-mindedness when it comes to the way projects unfold.  In some cases, you’ll inevitably be a passenger, someone along for the ride in executing someone else’s grander vision.  In others, you’ll call the shots yourself.  In all situations, however, being involved with other design professionals (landscape architects, architects, interior designers, developers) puts you in an environment in which creative give and take is the order of the day.’


‘For those who already work at a higher level, I suggest embracing other enlightened designers.  Establish alliances with local landscape architects and figure out ways to build two-way streets in which the success of one of you means the success of both of you.  Or do as I’ve done and bring people into your firm with the desired backgrounds and educations.’  

‘However you approach the issue,’ Brian concluded, ‘recognize that great work is almost always the product of great collaboration.  Better yet, it’s a much happier way to spend your days.’

Do you agree with Brian’s observations about the increasingly cross-disciplinary drift of watershaping design and construction?  Have you experienced this shift in your business?  Is it something you’ve figured out and have dealt with successfully?  Good or bad, please do us all the favor of sharing your own experiences in the comment box below!  


Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants, a design firm based in Miami, Fla., and is a co-founder of the Genesis 3 Design Group; dedicated to top-of-the-line performance in aquatic design and construction, this organization conducts schools for like-minded pool designers and builders.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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