By Eric Herman
It has been said by the experts that all art and craft is derivative, that any form of creative expression is actually a synthesis of both the designer’s vision and the application of pre-existing influences and principles.
In looking at the challenge of turning exterior designs into something special for customers, the watershaper is confronted with a particularly dynamic set of elements, possibilities and precedents: Water, plantings, stone and surrounding views are all interwoven in creating a space that is at once beautiful, functional – and often steeped in tradition.
As we at the magazine have dug deeper and deeper into what watershaping is all about, we’ve run over and over again into one of the richest resources imaginable for watershape designers in the grand and sublime traditions of the Japanese garden. People often assume that Japanese gardens work only in Japan or with a certain clientele, but that only indicates a huge misunderstanding about what Japanese garden design is all about.
The fact is, the common practice of creating highly detailed spaces using stone, lanterns, greenery (and especially water) exists worldwide, independent of any adherence to Eastern religions or Japanese cultural underpinnings. These spaces express a philosophy of design that maximizes views, textures and sound; an adherence to natural rhythms; and a deep-seated sense of the value of serenity and quietude. In this sense, the principles of Japanese gardening are uniquely flexible – there for everyone to borrow and bend to their own purposes.
This is the essential message of “Back to the Garden” in this issue: Here, master gardener and landscape designer Elizabeth Navas Finley examines and dissects the key elements of Japanese gardening with an eye toward showing how the simplest touches can be extracted for use in a broad range of design tasks (click here).
Whether or not these ideas convey themselves as distinctly Japanese or simply serve to prompt a reader’s thought processes, there can be little doubt that familiarizing yourself with this ancient tradition of exterior design can inform and enrich your work. As we move into a new century, isn’t it time to embrace the possibilities presented in the integration of past design disciplines with the sophisticated needs of future clients?
I heard from Larry Long a while back. The owner of Long Swimming Pool Steel in Anaheim, Calif., had called to tell me that his good friend, Norm Wozniak, had recently succumbed to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A 20-year pool plumbing and electrical contractor, Wozniak is survived by Margaret, his wife of 30 years, and four children. He was only 52.
Long’s hope is that Wozniak’s death might inspire his industry to join the fight against ALS. “I want people to be aware of the devastating effects ALS can have on the lives of those left behind,” Long told me. “I hope that by letting people know about Norm, they’ll find out more about ALS and get involved in the effort to find a cure.”
For more information, contact the ALS Association, 27001 Agoura Road, Suite 150, Calabasas, CA, 91730, or call (818) 880-9007. It’s a terrible disease – and a worthy cause.