By Jim McCloskey
As you’re probably aware, I live in southern California in the southwestern corner of the San Fernando Valley. You may also know that it gets wicked hot here, which is why this slice of the globe boasts more swimming pools per capita than anywhere other than maybe the Phoenix metroplex.
What you probably don’t know is a basic fact about my specific neighborhood: Most of the homes here were built in the late 1950s and early ’60s, and many of their pools are of an older vintage. The one out back of my house, for example, was built in 1982, about seven years before my family and I moved in.
That makes our kidney-shaped beauty a “young” watershape by local standards: Most of my neighbors’ pools were built in the late 1960s and ’70s, a time when simple rectangles and kidneys were the order of the day and bells and whistles didn’t extend much beyond a heater or maybe a slide.
Most nearby pools have deep ends, and some even have diving wells (although most of the boards and platforms have disappeared). They also commonly have a three- or four-foot-wide ribbon of concrete decking around them, and precious few have attached spas. (Happily, ours does.) Even fewer have raised walls or any other sort of feature that protrudes above deck level – other than the occasional ladder, that is.
I know this because my wife and I like to visit open houses in the area to get a sense of what people are doing to enhance homes of the same general size and age as ours. I also spent a weird afternoon a couple months ago looking at satellite views available through Google Earth – something I wouldn’t recommend unless you want to learn more about your neighbors’ backyards than you ever wanted to know.
Point is, when it comes to swimming pools, I live in the land time forgot, and this is why I have, through the years and whenever I can, always taken the opportunity to ride along with designers and builders to see their work and get a clearer sense of what’s happening at that moment – and of how far things have come in the years since WaterShapes emerged on the scene.
It really is a day-and-night contrast. To some extent, it’s fulfilled the vision I had back in 1998 that the foundations of watershape design and construction could and should expand and that people working in pools, ponds, fountains and various other forms of contained, controlled water could and would benefit from a cross-pollination of ideas, techniques and technologies. That truly has happened, and I think it’s been both productive and inspiring.
But what I witness in ride-arounds in southern California and elsewhere is astounding – a spectacular shattering of established boundaries of creativity and artistic determination. It wasn’t long ago that vanishing edges and tanning shelves and fire features and leaping jets and in-pool light shows were bracingly new – the latest and greatest. They’re still cool even now, but they’re also getting “familiar.”
Lately, what gets me going are elegantly executed rills and cool water walls, amazing stonework (both naturalistic and architectural) and incredible glass-tile mosaics, seductive toe-kick details and hidden shell penetrations. There’s a growing consciousness that watershaping is a true artistic endeavor, without doubt or compromise, and it’s a thrill to get out and see what’s emerging with my own eyes.
I can’t wait to hit the road again to get a sense of what’s coming next. My own pool and spa may be drab and dull by comparison, but that’s no big deal: I have enough memories of good times and family fun that I still smile every time I step into my backyard.
In that context, let me leave you with this thought: Watershapers, you’ve always done wonderful things for your clients, my family included. But these days? Now you’re reaching for incredible – and all I can do is urge you to keep striving!