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Blog art croppedBy Jim McCloskey

With this edition of the newsletter, we wrap up two important article sets at once, with the second and final part of Robert Mikula’s and Simon Gardiner’s coverage of fountains as resources for civic participation and the last in Graham Orme’s four-part exploration of techniques for lighting pools, spas and other watershapes.

In the first instance, I have always enjoyed working with people who have a sense of the Big Picture as well as the insight and ability to explain it in ways that make sense and carry us all along for the ride. Rob and Simon have presented their perspectives on the machinations of fountain design in such a clear, down-to-earth manner that it’s possible, I think, to generalize their outlook well beyond the public fountains that form the core of their discussion.

Take, as one small example, their observation that stakeholder buy-in is more often than not the key to having a fountain accepted as part of a grander development. Seems obvious enough, but they define so many layers and nuances in the first article that when you reach the case studies in the second one, you understand the practicalities and structures involved in bringing ambitious projects to fruition – the many small persuasions that lead to pursuit of one major project.

Let’s scale that down to a backyard pool or pond: There’s an equivalent process of identifying not only the decision-maker, but also figuring out ways to work with those who surround that key individual to make the design work on multiple levels. What Mikula and Gardiner are discussing is, of course, on a much bigger stage with many more constituencies and many more opportunities for misperceptions, missteps and misalignments, but ultimately it’s not so dissimilar.

And the challenge they face is much larger: To draw a parallel, imagine what it would be like if, as a residential pool designer, your plans had to meet the approval of mom and dad as well as their aunts, uncles, siblings, parents and neighbors – not to mention a panel consisting of their kids’ friends and their parents. Getting anything done would be something of a miracle, and it’s at this point I see the rationale for getting as involved in the community as Rob and Simon advise if you want to make headway in the realm of municipal watershaping.

Nonetheless, their experience suggests the value of being somewhat more inclusive in designing, for example, residential pools: The more voices you listen to, the better able you are to turn a client’s backyard into something special – particularly if the intention is to keep the kids close to home and turn the poolscape into a social hub.

It’s a variety of philosophical discourse that makes me happy as an editor and publisher: Mikula and Gardiner know their business, and their willingness to share their insights is both generous and valuable.

Graham Orme’s look at lighting techniques for common watershape types and configurations is another example of this generosity and value: By going into such detail, Graham has done for watershapers what prominent television chefs did for cooking in that great stretch years ago when cable television was more about being informative and instructive rather than competitive and entertaining.

In the same way chef Emeril Lagasse made me confident that I could improvise once I knew the basics of a recipe or class of recipes, Orme has shared enough granular information that the process of lighting a pool or spa or fountain or even a pond is less of a mystery. Like the purveyor of a cookbook, he’s shared a bag of ingredients and measurements and a set of general principles. Now it’s your turn to take and interpret that information and apply it given the idiosyncrasies and specific characteristics of your own projects.

It’s all about patterns and possibilities, and these two sets of articles – one philosophical, the other practical – make key watershaping challenges interesting and maybe even fun in ways I hadn’t perceived before. This is the kind of article that keeps me going and makes me proud to keep doing what we’ve done with WaterShapes for nearly 20 years.

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