By Eric Herman
In December 2004, WaterShapes introduced ‘The Platinum Standard,’ a registry of projects that embodies watershaping at its finest. Now, as part of our celebration of the magazine’s 100th Issue, Eric Herman offers ‘The Platinum Standard II,’ a fresh set of 20 projects that have graced the pages of the magazine in the past three-and-a-half years – projects that demonstrate clearly that watershaping has become an art form in its own right.
I’ll never forget the day Jim McCloskey suggested starting a magazine on systems that contain and control water. We were walking near his home in Woodland Hills, Calif., when he broached the idea, saying it had come to him as something of an epiphany while sitting in his spa a couple of days before our meeting.
I was skeptical at first. We’d previously worked together at another publication that dealt narrowly with pools and spas, and the last thing I wanted to do was double back to a project with such a limiting focus. In plain terms, I needed convincing that we would have the latitude we needed to do something completely new and different.
After extensive conversations over the next several days, the magazine many of you have seen 99 times in the past nine-and-a-half years took shape. It wasn’t to be about pools and spas alone, we agreed, but would also get into ponds, streams, fountains, landscapes, waterparks, water-oriented artworks and more. As we said early and often, we’d be about “everything from birdbaths to lakes” – and the concept of WaterShapes took flight.
At first, there were many who simply didn’t get it or refused to consider the fact that ponds and streams belonged in the same category as pools and spas (or vice versa) simply by virtue of the fact that they contain and control water. Even fewer believed we could encompass fountains, lakes and waterfalls as well. But as we moved forward, the idea gradually caught on: With the help of hundreds of watershapers who’ve worked with us through the years, I believe we’ve made a convincing case that watershaping is, without question, a multidisciplinary, multidimensional art form unto itself.
In December 2004, we published the first installment of “The Platinum Standard” as a celebratory retrospective on projects we’d covered that demonstrated what we saw as representing watershaping at the highest level. In a very real sense, that first collection of projects represented the culmination of all the formative discussions Jim and I had shared about the nature of the magazine and the industry we saw coalescing before our eyes.
Then as now, it’s important to note that The Platinum Standard is not a competition. Nor is it a “design awards” program, and there are no first, second or third place finishers to consider. Rather, it’s a simple acknowledgement of work that exemplifies the very best the watershaping industry has to offer. It is, in a word, a celebration, which is why we thought it important to include a new set of platinum projects in our Gala 100th Issue.
After we published the first set of Platinum Standard projects in 2004, I was often asked how we determined which projects made the cut. The simple answer is that Jim and I sat down and, then as now, went through every issue of the magazine and made our decisions as we went. This time, the first round yielded 41 worthy possibilities. Winnowing that list down to the final 20 presented here was not an easy task.
In doing so – then as now – we made choices that encompass a full range of styles and represent projects that range from the architectural to the naturalistic and/or represent a solution to some form of significant design or engineering challenge. And although aesthetics plays a major role, it’s not the be-all and end-all: This time, for example, we included a project whose true beauty only emerges if you are one of the physically challenged people who take to its exceptional waters for aquatic exercise and hydrotherapy.
As I concluded in introducing the first set of these projects in 2004, please accept this special feature as a gift from us at the magazine to you, our readers, who’ve watched WaterShapes from the start and have helped make it so useful and valuable to the industry’s progress. We hope it inspires you to work at a level that will help one of your own projects make its way into a future celebration of The Platinum Standard.