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WaterShapes LogotypeBy Eric Herman

It might be something of a cliché, but it’s often said that there’s great wisdom in being willing and able to learn the lessons of history.

In that spirit, I recently took advantage of an opportunity to sit in on a class in the

history of art and architecture taught by my friend, landscape architect and regular WaterShapes contributor Mark Holden, who runs a 20-hour course on the subject as part of the Genesis 3 design curriculum.

I’ve always been a fan of history – especially art history – and sitting in on the class was great fun.  Not only did it take me back to the sort of college-level experience I once enjoyed so much, but it also gave me the feeling that something very powerful is happening in the watershaping industry.

There were a dozen students in the class, all representing the mainstream industry.  As I listened to Mark work his way through thousands of years of art and architecture – and watched the lights go on for many of the attendees with one “aha!” moment after another – I was struck by the fact that education in design traditions is, at long last, available to a profession in need of just this sort of guidance.   

For all of the criticism that’s been leveled at the pool and spa industry (in these pages and elsewhere), I’d say that this gap in knowledge, this lack of shared cultural literacy, stands as one of the industry’s most striking shortcomings.  It’s like a writer who publishes a novel without ever having read Shakespeare or Hemingway, or an architect who designs buildings without ever having studied up on Frank Lloyd Wright or Walter Gropius.

I wonder how watershapers can function in the modern design scene without this sort of background information, but the plain truth is that even many landscape architects will concede that their educations are not long on historical studies.  With the exception of Mark’s classes, in fact, that base of knowledge has always been left mostly to those motivated enough to teach themselves.     

A sense of the value of this sort of in-depth, resonant communication is near and dear to us at WaterShapes, and we’re determined as never before to do our part in moving this sort of information to every corner of the industry.  We’ve made strides in this direction in the past, largely through articles written by Mark himself, but our focus henceforth will be on more than simply defining historic precedent and will also extend to exploring practical implications of these traditions for designers working in the here and now.  

To that end, we offer Mark’s latest piece, “Inside a Classic Style,” a look at the development and characteristics of the Spanish Colonial Revival as a distinct design and architectural phenomenon.  It’s a form that has been wildly popular for decades, particularly in the Sunbelt.  But as Mark deftly explains, it’s also a form that is frequently misunderstood or at least not fully appreciated in the contexts of its rich history, sweeping influence or the way water works in these environments.

In this feature (click here), you’ll find that Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is a varied and at times imprecise agglomeration of traditions that has become intertwined (quite confusingly) with an array of other popular styles.  Sorting out the basics, appreciating the variations carried with them and applying this information in the field may be of direct benefit to you even if it does no more than help you converse capably with your clients.

And this is just the beginning:  Watch for more in months and years to come.

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