It’s disappointing when we discover that something beautiful on the surface is devoid of substance at its core.
Our world is full of far too many examples: The ill-tempered supermodel, the sleek sports car that routinely breaks down, the boring novel with the snappy cover. Unfortunately, the watershaping trade also has its own tradition of flimsy facades masking poor quality, poor performance and worse.
Years ago, I spent a long day riding along with a service technician who was writing up estimates for repair work on a variety of residential and commercial pools in the San Gabriel Valley just north of Los Angeles. Time and time again, I watched as he inspected pools that all looked good but that had serious problems in one way or another.
At one stop, for example, he was asked to figure out why a pool – a stunningly beautiful vessel installed on the roof of a parking garage at an upscale condominium complex – was afflicted by not one, but more than a dozen apparent leaks.
We were able to walk underneath the pool and inspect the plumbing; check out the structural components and get a pretty good idea of the quality of workmanship. Up above, the project was an award winner; down below, even a cursory inspection of the technical aspects of the installation revealed less-than-admirable engineering and questionable construction practices front to back.
In varying degrees throughout the day, this same pattern of good looks masking poor construction was repeated again and again. In some cases, the equipment pads were twisted monstrosities; in others, skimmers leaked or tile was peeling off the walls or oversized pumps howled as they fought to shove water through undersized plumbing. It was testimonial to certain contractors who, at the time, seemed dedicated to the idea that style mattered much more than substance.
The pages of WaterShapes are filled with the work of contributors who spend a lot of time making their pools, ponds and other watershapes as beautiful as possible. And make no mistake: that is a big part of the art of watershaping. But without legitimate quality at the core – without sound structural engineering, top-notch hydraulic design and quality workmanship – all that beauty serves merely to conceal a lack of substance within.
That’s why we keep coming back to these issues of quality that is much more than skin deep in our publication. That’s why, in this issue, hydraulics specialist (and former service technician) Steve Gutai dives into the decidedly unlovely topic of pump hydraulics and performance characteristics.
Although you won’t find any pretty pictures in this article or further exploration of design philosophy, the information contained in Gutai’s discussion (click here) is as critical to the true beauty of a watershape as any other feature, detail or fine finish. Fact is, if a system that is designed to move water does not do so efficiently, reliably and quietly, everything else in the project is little more than unrealized potential.
Look at it this way: Many of the world’s greatest and most enduring landmarks are triumphs of technical ingenuity as well as aesthetic vision. From the Great Wall of China to the fountains at Versailles, from Stonehenge to the Golden Gate Bridge, striking visual forms are possible only by way of solid engineering and technical execution.
Today’s watershapes are not like ice sculpture or sand painting; these look good for a time but are destined to melt or blow away. Rather, watershapes and all the beauty they embody should always be built to last and function as advertised.