By Eric Herman
I’ve always found it interesting that most of us have such a clear divide in our minds between technical and aesthetic thinking.
Science tells us that our brains conduct analytical and logical thought processes on one side and creative and emotional thought processes on the other – and that certainly makes sense when you consider
how most people appear better suited for work governed by one half or the other.
Personally, however, I’ve never been satisfied with the absolute, categorical nature of the “dichotomy” – it’s just too simple.
In fact, I’m not alone in observing that, in most people, there’s actually an asymmetrical balance between the two halves: Yes, some are more technically oriented while others seem to have greater doses of creativity, but in almost all endeavors requiring refined skill, education and applied thought, you really do need the neurons to be firing on both sides of your brain.
That duality can be seen in a great many fields, industries and professions – endeavors as diverse as architecture, music, space exploration, computer programming and publishing to name a few – in which both technical and creative skills are required. Watershaping certainly has a place in this list.
During preparation of this issue, conversations with my good friend and regular WaterShapes contributor Steve Gutai drove these points home in a big way. In the latest contribution to his Hydraulic Fundamentals series (“Over the Edge” -- click here), he covers the concepts and mathematical nuances involved in designing and managing water flow over various types of weirs.
It’s an eminently technical, practical, analytical discussion that just so happens to focus on one of the most evocative, creative, emotional design elements in all of watershaping and indeed in nature – that is, water cascading over an edge. On its face, having water flow up to and over an edge and down to a lower level seems so simple, but as Steve’s article demonstrates, this seemingly elementary concept, like so many other aspects of watershaping, is actually an extremely complex expression of principles of physics, mathematics and fluid dynamics – all hard-core, scientific stuff.
The vastness of the principles behind the design and construction of weirs gives all watershapers a wide range of aesthetic design options – and those who see through the science on some level an even greater ability to deliver transcendent water effects to their clients. It’s the wisdom behind the most powerful component of watershape aesthetics and a discipline that rewards those who take the time to understand what’s occurring at the point where water breaks surface tension and flows over an edge.
Certainly, most of you are well aware that design details such as vanishing edges, perimeter overflows, runnels, troughs and waterfalls are far more complex than most clients will ever realize; it’s our thought that Steve’s approach will be immediately helpful to you as you work your way through complex system designs and then build such systems.
For my part, I know that in the future, whenever I see water spilling over an edge, both sides of my mind will be at least partly engaged.