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Aquatic Bliss  September 04, 2007

David Tisherman and Kevin Fleming, educated as a landscape architect, are certified members of the Society of Watershape Designers (SWD), an accredited educational program of seminars, short courses and schools that is setting higher expectations in aquatic design, particularly in the refinement of hydraulics, structures and cosmetic innovations. Mr. Tisherman was one of three founding members in 1998 of the SWD curriculum, Genesis 3, and is the chairman of the SWD governing board.

“I’m not a pool guy, but an industrial designer that got hookup up into this world,” Mr. Tisherman explains. “Pool people don’t know what they’re doing,” he avers. “They have no architectural or design background. They are sales people. What separates wonderful water art from the ordinary is proper construction techniques, high standards for mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems and the deft choice of materials. We create swimming pools that complement and subtly reflect their environment.”

“In (landscape architecture) school, we were taught how to lay out spaces; we were taught plants; we were taught basic construction techniques, and draining, etc., but there was nothing on pool design and construction.”—Kevin Fleming, Liquid Design LLC

David Tisherman founded the pool design/build company Visual, Inc. in Manhattan Beach, Calif. in 1979. His background includes a B.S. in industrial design from California State University, Northridge and graduate studies at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., and at Harvard University. He taught architectural rendering and presentation at UCLA for more than a decade and was recognized as “Teacher of the Year” in 1988. His pool design was awarded “best in show” in the national Spa & Pool Institute’s International Design Awards Competition in 1990. Mr. Tisherman’s influential pool designs have been featured in Architectural Digest, various pool and design magazines and such publications as Los Angeles Times Magazine, Philadelphia Style and The New York Times.


Kevin Fleming graduated from the West Virginia University landscape architecture program in 1991 and went to work for a top company involved in residential landscape design, sales and project management. In 1998, the company asked him to establish and lead the firm’s swimming pool division. At this time, he explains, pool builders were basically selling templates. “Pick the pool shape and size from these samples and we’ll install it,” was the pitch and “design,” regardless if it fit the home’s architecture or was in proper scale to the backyard. He wanted to offer more interesting pool designs but found that contractors didn’t know how to build them, nor did he. It was then he attended the Genesis 3 school of the Society of Watershape Designers (SWD).

“From the school, we learned a lot of what we were doing was wrong,” he says. Inspired by his new knowledge, he decided to design a vanishing edge pool, but soon realized he still needed more know-how. He went back to the SWD and interviewed the Genesis instructors to see who could build this pool.

“David (Tisherman) was probably the most difficult to deal with, but he seemed to know more about construction and his design was superior to everyone else, so we hired him as a consultant on that particular project,” recalls Mr. Fleming. He used David as a consultant on other pool projects over the next couple of years, bringing him designs and having him help build them. This team effort led Kevin and David to form Liquid Design LLC in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 2001. Kevin manages and supervises the East Coast pool installations and has attracted top artisans and craftspeople to execute the custom design pools. David handles the West Coast operation.

Landscape Architects and Pool Design

“In (landscape architecture) school, we were taught how to lay out spaces; we were taught plants; we were taught basic construction techniques, and draining, etc., but there was nothing on pool design and construction,” says Kevin Fleming. “I had to learn it the hard way, went out into the field and made my mistakes,” he says. “The biggest problem is that landscape architects may be drawing a pool shape with a set of specifications handed down from other projects.

Pool specification by others is usually a recipe for disaster. The problem is the landscape architect is charging the customer for a set of plans. Those plans are submitted to a contractor. So now you have a contractor who is responsible for the specifications of a swimming pool, who probably knows less than the landscape architect.”

“Water is nothing more than colorless, amorphous, highly reflective material that should enhance the environment. We may create a piece of art, but other than that, all the body of water should do is enhance and reflect the environment. Water doubles the visuals of everything around it.”—David Tisherman

Mr. Fleming advises landscape architects to hire pool consultants, just as they would hire a fountain consultant when facing design and construction of a million dollar fountain.

“The most successful projects I’ve had with David, and without David, for that matter, is when we (the pool consultants) were brought in early along with the other members of the team: the architect; the landscape architect; the lighting designer; the contractor. That’s when it’s a bullet-proof project.

Mr. Fleming has attained the “platinum” certification through Genesis, and is now one of its instructors. He teaches about organizing space, elements of design scale, structure, rhythm and balance, and advises that if you design a pool, you better know how to build it. “We all like to draw pretty pictures, but you need to know all the details that go into building it—all the mechanical aspects and calculations, what’s involved from geology to engineering, from construction to finish materials. If not, you’ve failed the client on every level. They are not buying a complete package from you. They’re buying a shape by others that won’t be implemented properly.”

The design philosophy of Tisherman and Fleming is the pool should not be the focal point, it should be a supporting element in the environment. The habit in swimming pool design, they find, is to simply put the pool in the middle of the backyard. From a design point of view, the landscape architect has to create a pool that is suited to the environment. Is it suited to the architecture of the home? Is it in the proper scale to the home and backyard? This goes for hardscaping and plantings, as well. Are they in proper scale and texture to the pool and do they fit with the style of architecture? Every piece must fit and work together.

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