Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™
Pools as an art form - the way it should be!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What is a designer??

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa
Paolo Benedetti

A qualified aquatic designer (swimming pool designer) is diametrically opposed from the pool builders found in the yellow pages or "," type of website. They possess a true sense of design & architectural knowledge. Specifying the shape & placement of a pool on one's property, cannot be done with a tracing template or the modern version of the same... "pool design software."

Both the tracing templates and design software immediately place limits on the available options. The templates limit the design, by the few templates the salesman possesses.

Design software places as many limits, but in another manner... the knowledge of the computer user, the features of the software, the details of the software, and the creativity of person who wrote the software. Additionally, the computer programs tend to lack a sense of scale, perspective angles, lighting and shadows, knowledge of materials, and the tend to render false colors.

To be able to be a true designer, one has to have personal knowledge of the "elements of design." How can someone be relied upon to design a project, who does not personally possess basic artistic talents?

Scope and Scale

Probably the biggest mistake made by the landscape architects, landscape designers and the swimming pool industry at large.... is the lack of proper scope & scale.

A 50 acre estate will look foolish with a small 36' long kidney pool placed 10 feet from the house. By contrast, a small zero-lot line house with a 25 foot deep yard, will seemed cramped and the space unusable, with a pool that occupies a majority of the space.

A case in point...

I met with a client who had a home in an upscale neighborhood of $1.5-2M homes. The house had a small backyard, not what I would EVEN consider big enough for a pool. Yet, when I sat down at their kitchen table, they presented me with 3 different designs, from 3 different "yellow page" swimming pool companies.

I snickered, and they immediately picked up on it & asked, "what wrong?" I proceeded to explain that they would have difficulty selling this house in a few years, if they put in a pool that occupied 85% of what little backyard they had. The pool designs that they had, left 3 feet between the house & pool and 5 feet between the pool & back fence.

After being hired to consult on the design of their yard, I interviewed them. I discovered that they really just wanted "water" to cool off in, and in which they could perform water therapy exercises on their prize dog, a boxer who had arthritis. I suggested a spa, designed as a water feature. It would maximize the value for the money. Visually, when unoccupied, would lend interest to the scene and the sounds of water to the yard. The spa could be left cold, to cool off in, or heated to enjoy hot water therapy. The thought immediately intrigued them.

I proceeded to inquire as to how they entertain, and discovered that they like to host barbecues in the summer months. I told them that "a pool then, is out of the question," "there would be no place left for chairs, let alone a table, BBQ, or people!"

I designed elevated planters, which could function as bench seating during a party. I also raised the spa out of the ground. Watching the way that people interact with water, they love to wipe their hands or dip their toes into the cool liquid. How many times have you seen a woman slide off her heels at a party, just to dip a toe into the water? Being able to sit on the edge of the water would allow visitors to "interact" with the water, by bringing the elevation up to the observer. Visitors could sit on the edge, and easily run their hands through the water.

Elevating the spa & attached water features, would also provide additional seating for larger gathering, since the space would not lend itself to a lot of chairs. The raised edge, also would help prevent small visitors from "accidentally" falling in.

The additional space available from the smaller spa & water features, opened up the perfect location for an outdoor kitchen... equipped with a granite counter tops, a refrigerator, beer tap/cooler, a sink with hot/cold water, a 48" gas barbecue, and gas side burner. None of this would have even been possible with a pool occupying the entire space.

The process of design is not just doing a drawing & layout, but more about the process of getting to know the clients, how they will use the project, how they entertain, and most importantly... scope and scale.... AND...

Color, Texture, & Material Selections

I subscribe to literally a ton of magazines. My family asks," how can you possibly read all of those magazines." I answer them, "I don't! I just look at the pictures." And they laugh... While that is not 100% correct, it illustrates the fact that we as people are visual.

When we see someone wearing plaids, with stripes & solids, and white socks, we naturally cringe. When we enter a space that is too busy we feel claustrophobic, a space that is too sparse & we feel "cold," are you starting to get the picture? While these spaces are around us everyday, most people do not "put their finger" on it consciously, rather, their subconscious mind tells them to avoid that space. The space has to work visually, for us to feel good about the space and thereby wanting to spend time in it. Done correctly the space should be designed to illicit the sought after emotions & feelings.... to feel relaxed in a spa bathroom, to feel energized in a home gym, etc.

This is where the knowledge of colors, their interaction with each other, & their interaction with the environment comes into play. Primary colors usually do not work well next to each other - they seem to "clash." While secondary colors & complimentary colors seem to work magically together. Yet, many architects, landscape architects, and swimming pool companies do not "get it."

Red bricks next to green grass has always "bothered" my design sense... why? Because they are primary colors next to each other. Softening the color of the bricks, makes the scene work wonderfully.... again it is the knowledge of colors & their relationship to each other.

Knowing how the environment will change colors is something that does not come naturally. Okay, there are a gifted few, to whom this talent comes naturally... naturally my good friend David Tisherman and Mexican Architect Ricardo Legorreta come to mind. They both have an innate ability to "know" how the changing environment will change the colors that we see (there's that visual thing again).

Legorreta has an amazing ability to use natural light to change the color we perceive, as the sun cast shadows or sunlight on colored surfaces. He further enhances this "play with sunlight" by strategically placing openings (windows, skylights, openings, etc.) to use the seasonal & daily tracking of the sun through the sky, to shine beams of light or cast shadows on planes of color. An example is a violet wall, with rays of light & rectangles of shadow cast across it's surface... the wall looks alternately dark purple & light pink, though in reality it is violet.

Though I have never told him, I admire David Tisherman's ability to perform the same. Though he has not made this his goal in life like Legorreta, he consciously uses light to "create a scene." A case in point, wherein Tisherman showed his creative genius, was on a red plaster pool. While most of the industry berated him for his choice in color, personally, "I got it!"

Most people do not know (or recognize) that red is the weakest color of the light spectrum & is filtered out first. Therefore, as light enters water, the red light is filtered out first... the stronger blue light spectrum continued into the deeper water. Ever wonder why Lake Tahoe is sooo blue??

Tisherman realized that the red pool would appear red in the shallow end, but purple in the deep end (remember, when you mix red (plaster) & blue (light) you get purple?). This ability to "play" with perceived colors is very important. Knowing how colors will change in appearance, once introduced into a project is very important. Colors in a showroom will look different in the shadows of a tree, in the direct sunlight of summer, or in the filtered blue light of the deep end of the pool.

Knowing how textures absorb or reflect light is also very important. Polished surfaces reflect light, thereby giving off "true colors." Matte finished or those with small amount of texture will absorb light, thereby imparting a softness to the color. Polished black granite verses flamed black granite is a good example of this.

Our eyes see reflected light... so knowing how a material, color, or surface will handle, treat, and reflect the light that falls upon, it is crucial in forecasting how it will look in the "scene." Most human beings, simply do not understand this phenomenon. Most architects, designers, and interior designers do not consciously understand this either. To some it comes naturally, & to others it is just "dumb luck." They just "feel" what works, but they don't know or understand why it works.

A person who knows and understands why this works, who possesses a sense of scope & scale, and can express their ideas so that their client can understand (and "get the picture") is someone who can truly call themselves...

a Designer!

Paolo Benedetti - Aquatic Artist
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa