Knowledge Is Power

Aq 805 20pg 0001

By any measure, the debut of the design/build program at last year's AQUA Conference was a huge success. AQUA's alliance with the cutting-edge Genesis 3 Design Group yielded a slate of education programs for designers and builders that matched the quality of the retail education program AQUA has long been known for.

"We couldn't get any more people under the tent," says Skip Phillips of Questar Pools in Escondido, Calif., and a founding member of Genesis 3. "They were hanging off the tent poles."

Adds Brian Van Bower, Genesis 3 founding member and principal of Aquatic Consultants in Miami, "The results of the show exceeded our own lofty expectations."

The success of the design/build presence at the AQUA show was part of the impetus for Genesis 3 and AQUA to roll out a design/build education program unlike anything previously offered to the industry. The big-name designers like Anthony Archer-Wills and Janet Lenox Moyers will be back, as will David Tisherman's one-day perspective drawing workshop. And the AQUA Conference package will include more sessions for the design/build community such as Water in the Landscape from the Dirsmith Group and engineering presentations by Ron Lacher, P.E.

But the centerpiece of the Genesis 3 Design School is a series of five 20hour accredited design courses taught by experts in their fields.

That's not a typo: five 20-hour courses . These courses cover the essentials of design and are college-level classes that are focused for the pool professional and condensed into a 20hour time frame. "They will start one day before the show starts and then three consecutive days for four hours in the morning. There are tests involved and lecture plus practicum," says Tisherman, Genesis 3 co-founder and principal of David Tisherman's Visuals.

Discouraged by what they felt was a lack of professionalism and a lack of true educational programming for pool builders and designers, Genesis 3 developed a series of long-weekend design schools that would suit their needs as high-end waterscape designers. Many in the industry are familiar with these lifestyle/construction/ design confabs held in Morro Bay, Calif., over the past few years.

The next logical step was to expand and accredit their offerings. They wanted to reach a wider audience and they wanted to partner with an organization that shared their high standards and could respond quickly to the changes in the marketplace.

"People who have attended the AQUA show for a long time have thought highly of the educational program," says Bower. "There wasn't an offering in the design/build segment, but the retail and spa programs were of exceptional quality. So we are thrilled to have a relationship with an organization that has a similar vision and outlook on education: Spending money to get quality and having something that's truly worthwhile.

"Working with AQUA, we're able to make a decision and run with it," says Bower. "If we tried to do the same program with other organizations, it would get watered down, or take six months or a year to get to a point that we got to in a couple of hours."

Peter Brown, president of the AQUA Show, is cognizant of the need for organizations to be nimble in today's business environment. "And that kind of ties in with how fast the industry is changing," he says. "The consumer is so educated now, builders have to adapt, and so have we with our educational programs. There's kind of a shake-up going on."


As consumers continue to think — and buy — in terms of their entire outdoor living space rather than individual segmented parts (the pool, the patio, the gazebo), it's an opportunity for professionals to provide the design and execution for an entire environment. Landscape architects are often the professionals tapped to oversee the work on an entire outdoor space.

"That's creating a demand for the education — in fact, it's making it a necessity," says Bower. "If you are going to perform in today's arena, you have to have these skills or you'll be left on the side of the road. With the con.uence of all of the different arenas that are involved in both design and construction of the outdoor environment today, you have to be able to work with these professionals, and if you're the pool guy of 25 years ago that's been banging them out the regular way, that's not going to cut it anymore.

"We have to step up as an industry. One of the things that AQUA and Genesis 3 have done in the first year is to embrace the landscape-architecture/landscape-design market. These professionals come from an educational background where there's a high level of schooling required — a bachelor's degree at the minimum — for what they do.

"We have been telling the industry if you don't make yourself better, these people are going to eat your lunch," says Bower. "They are going to come in and take your market away because they have an eye and a mind for design."

Just as the AQUA Conference has sought experts and professionals in fields outside the industry, Genesis 3 Design School has assembled a faculty with the requisite education and experience to teach a core design program, but one customized for the waterscape designer and builder.

"These are not free programs, but you're going to get exactly what you pay for," says Tisherman. "To go to a class and have somebody read out of a manual accomplishes nothing."

Bower adds, "Our tactic is to seek out the most-qualified instructors to present to people working across the outdoor-environment creative process. And in doing that, we're reaching outside of what has been the norm and doing programs that will offer the opportunity for people to differentiate themselves from everyone else."

"The instructors that we've brought in are professionals in a specific area," says Tisherman. "They are educated, they are degreed, they are professional, they all teach. We have run pilot programs for the last four months to make sure that everything is on a college level."

And while a Genesis 3 student's work generally speaks for itself, students will now have independent third-party acknowledgement of their achievements. The American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Institute of Architects and the International Association for Continuing Education have all accredited the program and will grant CEUs for successful completion of the courses.


Several pilot programs were held throughout the spring so that the curriculum and materials could be fine-tuned before their debut at the AQUA Show. One challenge was to distill a semester's worth of material into just four meetings.

"This is the equivalent of a semester being compressed into 20 hours," says Phillips. "And it's focused on what we do and what's relevant and what has the most impact."

"I just spent a semester in architectural theory at a local junior college," says Phillips. "One of the best things I've ever done, but in order to do a college program, you have to take off work. You're going to miss a half day once a week for 13 weeks or whatever it happens to be. The G3/AQUA program is college-level information that is being tailored for the pool and spa industry for the first time."

Some might say that the pool industry has gotten along just fine for many years without higher education. But that notion doesn't hold water anymore.

"As the bar is raised on an educational level, the people who don't go to school — take any profession you want in the world — unless you continue to keep up with it, you lose," says Tisherman. "A doctor who doesn't keep up with the research, loses. A baker who doesn't understand new baking techniques pretty soon finds himself left behind."

"There are several things driving the need for these types of programs," says Bower. "The marketplace is totally different today than it was five years ago. The projects are more complex, the materials are of a higher quality, customers are more demanding and have access to more information than ever before.

"The reality is that people who are coming to these programs have told us that it's making a direct financial difference in their income that's beyond what most would dream of," says Bower. "For example, Skip has completed both of the pilot programs. Skip is better than he was before. And that's going to mean dollars of income for him, it's going to give a higher level of confidence in his ability to deal with the design professionals that he has to work with in today's high-end pool market. Just about every project you go on has a team: architect, landscape architect, interior designer, the lighting people and engineers. And if you're able to make a drawing that communicates the concept you're trying to put across and do it with confidence, you're stepping up and that translates directly into quality of project and increased income." Says Tisherman, "Clients are much more sophisticated with regard to design, materials, color, they are discriminating buyers, they know what they want."

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the education program is its broad reach. "We want this to be inclusive, and if you're in the pool, spa, water feature, design/ build segment, you'd better be there," says Phillips. "It has nothing to do with the price of the product. These are basic, fundamental things that everybody in this industry should know and it's unavailable anywhere else."

While Genesis 3 is known for its ultra-high-end projects, the three principals stress that education is for everyone from entry-level on up.

"This isn't price relevant," says Tisherman. "Everybody requires beauty and good construction. It has to work and it has to look good, whether the pool is $10,000 or $510,000. If you're building a $10,000 pool and the guy next to you is building an $11,000 pool, and it looks better and works better than yours, what's going to happen? You're out of business."

"We're bringing people from outside of the pool umbrella to come in and make us smarter," says Bower.

Design School Syllabus

In addition to the scores of sessions included in the AQUA Conference's educational package, the Genesis 3 Design School will debut its 20-hour core design courses at the AQUA Show.

  • Elements of Design. An introduction to design fundamentals, including space-ground relationships, color interaction, line, texture, shape, balance, proportion/scale and rhythm. With an emphasis in a two-dimensional plane, this course will develop perceptional skills and creative awareness. Multiple design media will be used in a studio/lecture format. Instructors: Don Gerds, DAG Design; Kevin Fleming, Liquid Designs
  • Measured Perspective. Students will prepare a two-point measured perspective drawing of an existing pool plan view. The assignment will incorporate the practical challenges encountered in designing a pool today. The complexity level builds from basic building blocks to a gratifying professional presentation, utilizing geometric and rounded forms to achieve this goal. The introduction of light logic and shading will enhance the illusion of three-dimensionality. The course will build confidence and unlock the mystery of this technical drawing skill. An introductory class in (unmeasured) perspective drawing is required. Instructor: Larry Drasin, Drasin Design
  • Basic Color Theory. The study of the perception of color — its permutations and its dimensions — this course covers traditional as well as contemporary methods, emphasizing individual experimentation through lab exercises and lecture/demonstrations. Topics include: the color wheel, Munsell and Albers theories and the association of color theories to art, architecture and the dynamics of water. Instructor: Judith Corona, Art Adventures International
  • The Vocabulary of Architecture and Style. Humankind has made great leaps in the development of style throughout the millennia. When accelerated achievement meets favorable popularity, there is a period or style left as an icon to identify it. We shall illustrate these icons as well as the people who are credited with their creation. For example, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Gropius, Wright were all inventers of style. The antiquities, renaissance, baroque, and cubism are all periods or styles. The arch, flying buttress and column are components of architecture while sculpture, paint and light are of art. Together they make up the tools by which humans influence their own environment. We will explore this and more so students will understand why we create and how our ancestors did so. Instructor: Mark Holden, HoldenWater
  • Designing and Understanding Fountains and Water Features. This course will begin with a study of architectural fountain design. Discussion will include how water can fit intended spaces as well as all elements that have a bearing on place making. Aesthetic water design and the reasons that water-shaping effects are incorporated into certain designs will be discussed. Next, students will learn about lighting design, including discussion of incorporating lighting into water-feature design. The differences between and appropriate use of halogen, fiberoptic, color lighting and LED luminars will also be covered. The last part of this course includes water-feature hydraulic design and tricks of the hydraulic-design trade. Splash and sound considerations will be discussed as well as the ways to best manage them and the core issues that effect design. Instructors: Paul L'Heureux and Larry O'Hearn, Crystal Fountains
Buyer's Guide
Find manufacturers and suppliers in the most extensive searchable database in the industry.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide
Content Library
Dig through our best stories from the magazine, all sorted by category for easy surfing.
Read More
Content Library