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WaterShapes LogotypeBy Eric Herman

There’s a natural tendency to think of artists as dreamy, distracted types devoid of any aptitude for or interest in things technical.

When you study just about any art form in depth, however, you soon realize that the opposite is true.  In fact, the greatest artists most often are those with advanced technical training and skill who’ve learned how to apply what they know with sublime ingenuity and subtlety.  It is this foundation in science and technology that enable them to express themselves so artistically.

Consider how great artists from antiquity to the present use the nuances of metallurgy or masonry and structural engineering to raise their greatest works.  Is there any doubt that enduring structures from the Sphinx to the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty would fall to rubble were it not for their designers’ accurate use of engineering principles?  Or how essential it is for the world’s great painters and illustrators to understand color theory, perspective and anatomy to lay down their timeless images?

In some modern arts – photography, cinematography and computer graphics, for example – technology and art are inseparable.  And when it comes to something like architecture, the artist’s work is far more a science than most would recognize.

The art of watershaping is no different from the rest.  Today’s best watershapers possess a range of technical knowledge, skills and sympathies drawn from a list of disciplines that includes geology, materials science, structural engineering, electrical, water chemistry, biology, botany and hydraulics.  

All of these are important and warrant close examination and study, but it is the last discipline, hydraulics, that gives watershapes of all forms their handiest distinction.

No matter the design or complexity of any watershape, it is the water and how it is used and circulated that remains its most compelling aesthetic element.  And water is a truly dynamic compound, one that requires the deft balancing of pressure and flow, filtering and treatment, replenishment and containment to be successfully used – shaped – to the greatest possible effect.    

For all that, understanding and practicing good hydraulics is something far easier said than done by many watershapers.  As Brian Van Bower observes in his column in this issue (click here), the hydraulics applied to swimming pools too often is characterized by grotesque equipment sets that waste energy, make noise, break down and confound service professionals.  Think as well of fountains turned to planters and the unsightly pond water found in too many parks before you think this is all about pool builders.

Because hydraulic know-how is so fundamental to the watershaping arts, we’re introducing in this issue a new set of tightly focused articles on this subject.  Beginning here, regular contributor Steve Gutai offers the first of many articles he’ll be writing for us under the heading “Hydraulic Fundamentals,” a series that will appear in most issues on very specific topics related to plumbing, equipment and theory.

He gets things going this time with a look at proper pump installation – an absolute necessity in any successful watershape.

Whether you’re a veteran contractor in need of a refresher course or a newcomer in need of tips on making water respond to your needs as a designer or installer, this series will meet help you understand and master a science that resides at the heart of the art of watershaping.

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