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Old and New

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WaterShapes LogotypeEric Herman

Watershaping is one of the few art forms possessed of the ability to bridge the gaps between the very old and the very new.

From the classic looks of Roman baths and the reflecting pools of ancient Islam to the brisk modernity of slot-overflow details and fountains that dance to music, watershaping is fully capable of embracing cultural artifacts and design precedent as well as the most dazzling elements of modern design and technology.

Perhaps the most significant unifying factor between old and new (beyond the water itself) is that many of today’s clients want it both ways in their projects, whether commercial or residential, public or private. Working with that theme, we’re serving up a pair of articles that explore not only the extremes of antiquity and modernity, but the accessibility of both as well.

In this issue – in “Objects of Desire” by Daryl Toby (click here) – you’ll find a unique discussion and dazzling set of images offered by an equally unique designer. Toby is president and founder of Aguafina, a landscape-design firm that has built its reputation on including elements of the past in its work, mostly in the form of rescued building materials and art objects from Asia as well as modern reproductions of antique originals.

In using pieces that are sometimes hundreds of years old, Toby gives his clients designs that embody and express a character of artistry and craftsmanship that cannot be replicated by contemporary means. In many cases, these are small touches that lend focal points to otherwise contemporary spaces; in others, the use of antique materials defines almost every square inch of the work.

In sharp contrast, you’ll find “Contemporary Sensibilities” by Martha and Randy Beard (click here). This piece is a continuation of a series of articles about their ongoing work in executing the designs of top architects, landscape architects and designers in Southern California and adapting and molding their construction skills to suit a broad range of styles and design philosophies. In this case, they guide us through two projects by Mark Singer, a well-known Orange County architect.

This is contemporary residential exterior design at its finest, and the combination of the Beards’ expert installation and Singer’s transcendent skill with clean, rectilinear designs yields contemporary spaces filled with beautiful materials, clever use of elevations and razor-sharp lines that are at once accessible and visually compelling.

To be sure, the two approaches celebrated in these beautiful articles are not mutually exclusive. It’s easy, for example, to think of modern designs that incorporate old garden ornaments or statues as well as Asian-influenced designs that feature modern sculpture or dramatic linear forms. Fact is, the design sensibilities applied to watershaping are as fluid, flexible and dynamic as can be, and the possibilities are limited only by the imagination – and your clients’ willingness to try something new and different.

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