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WaterShapes LogotypeEric Herman

Watershapes of all kinds have come a long way in recent years, with elaborate, fully integrated and highly creative designs that were mostly unheard of in days gone by.

For many of us, me included, exposure to “aquatic environments” (as they are now grandly known) began with the most familiar of all crafted bodies of water, the backyard swimming pool. Every summer, it seemed, there was always someone within my circle of friends who was able to make his or her pool the place to be for the summer.

No matter how far we’ve traveled since I was a kid into the wild varieties of pools, spas, streams, ponds, waterfalls, fountains, interactive waterfeatures and waterparks that are now being built, those early memories of swimming in scores of backyard pools are impossible to erase and are among my fondest recollections of growing up in the 1960s and ’70s.

I’ll never forget the feeling of accomplishment I felt at being able to swim the length of the pool underwater for the first time, the smell of chloramines and suntan lotion, the games of Marco Polo, the bleached-out bathing suits and the sunburned noses. Not to go into too much detail, but I came of age in those backyards, and that’s not something one is likely to forget.

For all of the vivid memories I have of those beautiful summer days gone by, I remember almost nothing specific about the pools themselves. They were all completely non-descript, and there’s not a one that stands out in my memory at all. Yes, there are general impressions of bullnose coping, white plaster, three-foot-wide ribbons of concrete decking, gelcoat slides and stiff diving boards, but nothing was remarkable enough to stand out.

As has long been bemoaned by contributors of all sorts to the pages of this magazine, it is unfortunate but true that the standard backyard pools of the past – and many being built to this very day – are lacking when it comes to creativity and flair.

These days, however, my kids and others of my acquaintance occasionally get to enjoy swimming pools and outdoor areas that have been tricked out with spas, rock slides, grottos, diving rocks, waterfalls, fire pits, outdoor kitchens and fireplaces — and I find myself feeling a bit envious.

Don’t get me wrong: My childhood memories are dear to my heart, but would a shallow thermal ledge have been too much to ask back in 1968?


Swinging into summer with this issue of WaterShapes, we’re celebrating the continuing evolution of the backyard pool with a look at the work of three polished practitioners of the craft, each with a clearly distinct sensibility:

* In “Completely Contemporary” by Sheri and Roger Soares (click here), we profile a stunningly modern backyard pool/spa/landscape design that epitomizes upscale good taste.

* In “Libation Sensations” by Scott Cohen (click here), we see the work of a specialist in providing clients with highly customized, themed environments that, in the three cases highlighted here, center on his clients’ specific passions.

* In “The Pleasure Garden” by Mario Abaldo (click here), we’re treated to a look at one of the most elaborate artificial-rock installations to be found in any backyard.

In all cases, their work is creative, elaborate and exudes enviable senses of style and fun. I can only imagine the memories that will be spawned in these sorts of watershapes for years to come.

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