At their best, watershape designs make artistic statements that compliment and amplify the surrounding environment, while reflecting the personality of both the designer and homeowner. As Eric Herman relates, it’s a feeling that’s hard to define, but yet unmistakable when present.
By Eric Herman
Not long ago a friend asked me what is it about pools that I find so fascinating? A bunch of possible answers ran through my mind including the way that pools bring people together, how watershaping is an unsung and largely uncelebrated art form, the health benefits and how swimming can change our lives.
The answer that found its way to my lips was simply, “I don’t know, there’s just something about being near water, and pools can create that feeling almost anywhere.”
Perhaps that answer wasn’t overly specific, but it was reasonably accurate. Along the same lofty lines, I recently saw a post on Facebook from one of my very close friends in the industry, the incomparable Joan Roca, one of the most prominent and arguably the leading watershape designer/builder in all of Central America. His post eloquently summed up my feelings about the power of pools and watershapes in general. Had I read it first, Joan’s words probably would’ve inspired a better answer.
In Spanish he wrote, “A good design is one that fills me wherever I see it. It is not about the value of the work, but about the art that is in it. What is simply beautiful. You sit and watch it and it fills your soul.”
He’s exactly right. For all the dollar signs and project specifics, all the hardboiled engineering calculations and construction details, none of that means much if it doesn’t serve the kind of greater purpose Joan is describing. In his post he included a number of photos of a project that captures exactly what he means.
It made me recall the time many years ago, I visited Joan in Costa Rica. It was memorable trip for a bunch of reasons, including an extended tour of many of his projects scattered throughout the country. What struck me then, and I’m reminded of it now, was the sense of place embodied within his designs.
Yes, I was more than impressed by his use of poured-in-place concrete and CMUs as opposed to shotcrete, and by the tortuous logistics he navigates building complex projects in remote locations. But it was the way all the pools he showed me appeared to fit so effortlessly and harmoniously into their settings. The way the vanishing edge contour mimics the distant coastline view, or how his architectural designs beautifully complement the verdant surroundings, all of it harmonized with both the surrounding architecture and natural forms.
That’s what the very best watershapers I’ve known are able to do. They are artists and artisans who marry the technical mastery of mechanical and structural engineering with the artistic sensibility of architecture’s greatest practitioners. They are able to serve both the sense and sensibility of their chosen craft.
I’ll admit as a hopeless romantic, I am easily drawn to the powerful and yet often subtle, aesthetics of the finest watershape environments. Time and time again, I’ve been treated to the experience that these great places embody. My heart is filled by it and that truly is the essence of buen diseno.