A Triple Play

By Jim McCloskey

This edition of WaterShapes EXTRA brings back some particularly warm memories for me – and a great sense of pride.

[  ] For starters, there’s the Essential item about John Lautner by his close associate, Helena Arahuete.  “Organic Artistry” (click here) was thekind of feature we only dreamed about running when the magazine started in February 1999.

Sure, we could’ve found someone else to write about one of the 20th Century’s greatest architects and discourse upon how he worked with water; we might even have generated the text ourselves.  But the fact that Ms. Arahuete was willing to work with us – and that she was inclined to do so in the fall of 2000 at a point when the magazine was still in its infancy – made the article both unique and special.

She was, after all, no casual observer, as she’d taken the helm of the firm of John Lautner Associates upon his death in 1994 and has done nothing in the years since to diminish its reputation for either daring or excellence in design.

No doubt about it:  We were flattered beyond belief that she saw enough value in our mission that she was willing to share her insights into her mentor’s work (she had worked directly with Lautner for more than 20 years by the time of his passing).  Even more from our perspective, she was also eager to define a clear and valuable role for professional watershapers in the design and construction of built environments.  Pretty cool.

[  ]  Then there’s Belinda Stillwell’s piece, “Healing Waters,” on the aquatic-therapy center at California State University, Northridge (click here).  Developed by the university’s experts in collaboration with the design team at Rowley & Associates, it’s another project in which our coverage was a departure from the norm.

It would have been easy for us to work, as we often did, with Bill Rowley and his staff to dig into the design, engineering and construction processes related to what I’ve always seen as a truly remarkable aquatic facility.  In this instance, however, Eric Herman took a different tack and let a passionate aquatic therapist tell the story.  Dr. Stillwell, I think, came through beautifully.

There’s a sensitivity to the subject matter that shines through along with a fair measure of professional pride, but what gets me about the article is her focus on the people who were actually using the facility to great advantage.  It’s just a wonderful feature that should fill every watershaper with pride at the potential his or her products have to help people cope with disabilities and various conditions for which aquatic therapy is recommended.  Again, it’s nice to see this one a second time.

[  ]  Finally – and this comes in addition to a half-dozen never-before-published features found only in this newsletter – there’s “Art for Art’s Sake,” my own piece on what was then the newly opened Getty Center in Los Angeles (click here).  In the magazine’s entire history, I took just this one feature byline – and I did so because I hoped I had something unique and interesting to communicate about the way the facility had come together.

No, I don’t belong in the expert company of either Ms. Arahuete or Dr. Stillwell when it comes to evaluating grand design processes and projects.  I slipped into the picture because Eric Herman recognized my passion about the Getty in the numerous conversations we had about approaching the subject, and he more or less pushed me into the authorial chair.

My point here is simple:  One of the things I’ve always liked about working on WaterShapes is the ability we had (and still have) to make unusual choices when it comes to choosing angles and following creative instincts rather than slavishly relying on standard approaches.  More important, for whatever reason we’ve always been good enough at expressing our mission and intentions that we’ve been able to persuade unusual sources (including me) to step up and be heard.

Please do give these classic features a look – and enjoy the fruits of these unconventional labors.

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