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From the Beginning

5-yrsBy Mark Holden

‘Why isn’t the appropriate use of water a defining, central component in the education of landscape architects?’

That’s how Mark Holden began a series of articles called “Future Class” in the March 2007 edition of WaterShapes. He continued: ‘That question has rattled around in my head for a long, long time, basically because it has no adequate or satisfactory answer. I’m a trained landscape architect and, as luck would have it, for nearly 20 years I’ve had one foot in the pool industry and the other in landscape architecture – and I’ve always felt like a rare beast moving back and forth between two entirely separate worlds.

‘As I see it, this lack of affinity between these water-related industries has been a limiting factor in the advancement of the watershaping trades. For me, the lack of connection has always seemed nonsensical when it hasn’t seemed tragic.’


‘A longstanding frustration has been that only a few information sources have ever sought to pull these two related disciplines together – WaterShapes being one of the few. The reality is, absent undergraduate studies that serve to bridge the gap, the magazine fairly well stands as a lone voice in a field otherwise defined by silence.’


‘The odd thing is that landscape architects are expected, both by the industry and general public, to be the stewards of ornamental water. The sad truth is, with very few exceptions, that these well-educated, well-qualified professionals lack any formal education in the arts of watershaping.’


‘It’s my conviction that when water studies become mandatory for landscape architecture students, the watershaping industry will start to be taken more seriously in the broader universe of design professions. Moreover, landscape architects will stop asking builders and consultants to design their watershapes – a win-win situation if ever I’ve seen one, as builders will finally be allowed simply to build and landscape architects will be equipped to give them the documents they need to get the job done.’


‘As I see it, the education of landscape architects and their increased proficiency in watershaping is beneficial to every associated trade and industry: There is nothing harmful about making landscape architects better and more thorough designers – unless, perhaps, your current business model involves taking advantage of their professional inadequacies.’


‘My hope has always been for specific water-related education to become a component of every environmental design department in the country, and my intention in preparing these articles is to create enough momentum that a dream can become reality. Students want this information, and the industry wants and needs them to have it. The time is now for our educational institutions to step up and join in watershaping’s growth and development.’
Mark’s goal of making water part of landscape architecture’s design curriculum has long proved elusive, but he’s taken another step in this direction by starting Artistic Resources & Training, a new education program he discussed in an interview in this newsletter’s March 21 edition. For more information, visit ART’s Web site: www.theartofwater.com.
Mark Holden is a landscape architect, pool contractor and teacher who owns and operates Holdenwater, a design/build/consulting firm based in Fullerton, Calif. He may be reached via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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