By Eric Herman
Even with the broad variations among basic types of watershapes – pools, spas, streams, ponds, waterfalls or fountains – they are all unified by the simple fact that every project must first be designed and then built. Sometimes, the designer and builder are one and the same individual or organization. In other situations, the designer and builder are separate entities.
I bring up this fundamental duality to point out that understanding one’s own role in the process is crucial for every watershaper, if only to help you orchestrate your career in a way that enables you to capitalize on your strengths and accommodate your weaknesses. As important, perhaps, understanding your own role in the process enables you to appreciate and better complement the role of others.
This is a theme that arises almost on a daily basis in conversations I have with watershapers, and exploring this topic in some way underlies almost every article we publish. So even though an understanding of the working relationship between designers and builders may seem obvious and clear, in fact it is an area that challenges the best and brightest on both sides of the equation – and will continue to generate thought and discussion and debate in this magazine and elsewhere.
One who has repeatedly expressed his viewpoint on the relationship between design and construction is David Tisherman, a provocative columnist who is himself one of those rare professionals who are accomplished in both arenas. In the many columns and articles he has written for WaterShapes, Tisherman urges rank-and-file contractors from the pool industry to step up, study design, learn how to draw and elevate design skills to the level of established skills in structural engineering, soils science, hydraulics and all the other disciplines needed to execute top-flight projects.
For many watershapers (particularly those who come from the traditional pool/spa industry), this “Tisherman model” of watershaping embodies their highest ambitions.
For many others, however, it makes more sense to focus on one side or the other of the design/build coin. In this issue, for example, landscape architect Mike Heacox writes extensively about the value of recognizing limitations and the forging of alliances between designers and contractors (click here). This article started out as a long letter challenging the working philosophy Tisherman advocates in his column and grew into a fuller exploration of the role designers (including lots of landscape architects) see themselves playing in the watershaping realm.
Balancing and resonating with the ideas Heacox discusses, this issue also offers a look at the design/construction relationship from the contractor’s point of view when accomplished pool/spa builders Randy and Martha Beard describe two projects in which they collaborated with landscape architect David Pederson, going into detail about the nature of their working relationship and the trust that can develop between designer and builder when both sides understand what’s involved in making the relationship work (click here).
From both sides, Heacox and the Beards make compelling cases for the value of perfecting your own craft – and embracing and aligning your skills and services with complementary forces on the other side.
Whether your ambition is to excel at both design and construction (as does Mr. Tisherman) or to specialize in one or the other (as do Mr. Heacox and the Beards), what you need to consider is that complete understanding the art and craft of watershaping from concept to completion benefits everyone along the line – especially clients.