WaterShapes

The web site for all professionals and consumers who've made or want to make water a part of their lives

Winter Delights

Fountains have long been purposeful testimonials to the beauty of moving water and the effect it has on associated sculpture and landscaping.  Less deliberate and controllable but still beautiful, say landscape architects and environmental artists Suzanne Roe Dirsmith and Ron Dirsmith, is what occurs when a fountain and its patterns of mist and overspray freeze – effects that open a fresh, unique set of options to watershapers.
Fountains have long been purposeful testimonials to the beauty of moving water and the effect it has on associated sculpture and landscaping. Less deliberate and controllable but still beautiful, say landscape architects and environmental artists Suzanne Roe Dirsmith and Ron Dirsmith, is what occurs when a fountain and its patterns of mist and overspray freeze – effects that open a fresh, unique set of options to watershapers.
By Suzanne Roe Dirsmith & Ron Dirsmith

An important part of creating a human environment in harmony with nature is planning for and designing with the cycle of the seasons in mind.

At our company, the Dirsmith Group, we operate with the belief that a blending of fine architecture and landscape design into our natural environment, in careful harmony with human beings, demonstrates both a reverence and a respect for nature.  The result of this blended environment is that people feel good:  They enjoy being in the space, and we believe it enriches the human spirit.

When it comes to working with the seasons specifically, that’s easier said than done in

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The Crest of the World

It’s been the job of a lifetime for contractor and landscape architect Mark Holden:  the creation of a multi-faceted paradise at an historic, hilltop estate in Montecito, Calif.  The project features a variety of traditional watershapes designed with state-of-the-art technology – but all meant to appear as though they had been built with the original structures in the 1920s.  Here, he begins a series of articles that will chronicle this amazing process.
It’s been the job of a lifetime for contractor and landscape architect Mark Holden: the creation of a multi-faceted paradise at an historic, hilltop estate in Montecito, Calif. The project features a variety of traditional watershapes designed with state-of-the-art technology – but all meant to appear as though they had been built with the original structures in the 1920s. Here, he begins a series of articles that will chronicle this amazing process.
By Mark Holden

Montecito is home some of the grandest estates on the West Coast, but relatively few people know about it or where it is.  

A sleepy little town, it lies several miles east of Santa Barbara and some 80 miles or so northwest of Los Angeles.  From the beautiful hilltop estates that dot the landscape, you can see Santa Barbara’s wharf and downtown in the foreground, with sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean dominating the horizon.

The big ranches of Montecito are dotted with hundreds of watershapes inspired by the Spanish-Colonial and Moorish architecture that surround them.  Most were installed as part of the Spanish Revival movement that took hold among architects and landscape designers all over California through the first half of the 20th Century.

The revivalists’ octagonal and quatrefoil fountains and courtyards provide a visual link to the state’s Spanish heritage.  Fueled by the explosion of Hollywood’s movie industry during this time, the combination of money, lots of open land and a popular architectural style resulted in creation of some of the most beautiful estates anywhere in the world – none more so than a property named Cima del Mundo, Spanish for

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Light Sensations

The lighting of water in motion is equal parts engineering and art.  To be successful at it, observes Paul L’Heureux of Crystal Fountains, you need to combine an understanding of the available technology with an eye for what’s involved in accenting movement with light.  Here, in the second part of his discussion of fountain lighting, he gets specific about techniques that bring moving water to life when the sun goes down.
The lighting of water in motion is equal parts engineering and art. To be successful at it, observes Paul L’Heureux of Crystal Fountains, you need to combine an understanding of the available technology with an eye for what’s involved in accenting movement with light. Here, in the second part of his discussion of fountain lighting, he gets specific about techniques that bring moving water to life when the sun goes down.
By Paul L’Heureux

Just as a painting comes alive with a tiny lamp perched over its frame or a simple landscape becomes a nighttime spectacle with strategically placed spot and flood lights, illuminated water creates an intense experience for the eyes. Lighting adds depth and dimension while revealing subtle details and producing emotional responses among those who view and enjoy these scenes.

The simple truth is, if we didn’t light water in fountains and other watershapes, much of its visual beauty would be lost.  As we discussed in “Guiding the Lights” (WaterShapes, March 2001, page 48), understanding and applying the various approaches and techniques of lighting water enables professional watershapers to operate on whole new levels.

In the following pages, we’ll continue that discussion with a look at what it takes to maximize the aesthetic effects of water in motion and discuss some practical issues having to do with lighting installation and safety.

SOLUTIONS IN MOTION

Last time, we identified the various categories of water effects, design considerations for each and the most effective of the available lighting solutions.  This time we’ll

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Cooling the Flock

Boston’s First Church of Christ, Scientist, has become nationally known both for its original design and also for the spontaneous child’s play that has developed through the years in the facility’s deck-level fountain.  Here, landscape architects John Copley and Lynn Wolff discuss their firm’s role in modifying the original design to match its actual usage, all while preserving the character of a site that has become one of the city’s modern landmarks.
Boston’s First Church of Christ, Scientist, has become nationally known both for its original design and also for the spontaneous child’s play that has developed through the years in the facility’s deck-level fountain. Here, landscape architects John Copley and Lynn Wolff discuss their firm’s role in modifying the original design to match its actual usage, all while preserving the character of a site that has become one of the city’s modern landmarks.
By John Copley & Lynn Wolff

Sometimes, it’s the unexpected that gives a place its true spirit.

That’s been very much the case for The First Church of Christ, Scientist, a 1975 addition to Boston’s historic Back Bay district.  The site features a campus plan devised by legendary architects I.M. Pei and Peter Walker, with grounds organized around a central reflecting pool flanked by a circular, ceremonial display fountain.  The famed fountain is enclosed by an equally famous bosque of linden trees pleached into lollipop forms.  

For Bostonians and visitors alike, this classic design has become part of the urban fabric – and the church’s plaza a popular gathering place.

Not long after the original work was completed, children from surrounding neighborhoods (the South End, Fenway and the Back Bay) discovered the wonderful play opportunities associated with the 180-nozzle deck-level fountain, especially during the hot summer months. Since 1975, literally thousands of kids with their families in tow have made this space their summer hangout, and now second-generation children are being brought to the fountain by parents who grew up playing in its irresistible jets of water.

From the start, however, there was a problem with

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A Modest Monument

The York Street Millennium Fountain in Canada’s capital city is a modest marvel, a compact monument that says something about the city’s history and urbanity in ways that something grander perhaps never could have done.  But the scale of the fountain is the only thing ‘small’ about the project, recalls landscape architect John Altorio, who found the work of balancing national- and local-government interests to be a challenge indeed.
The York Street Millennium Fountain in Canada’s capital city is a modest marvel, a compact monument that says something about the city’s history and urbanity in ways that something grander perhaps never could have done. But the scale of the fountain is the only thing ‘small’ about the project, recalls landscape architect John Altorio, who found the work of balancing national- and local-government interests to be a challenge indeed.
By John J. Altorio

A watershape doesn’t need to be immense to be either beautiful or monumental.  Nor does it need to be outsized to serve its community as a gathering place or point of pride.

Those are a couple of the lessons we learned in shaping the York Street Millennium Fountain in the heart of one of the highest profile tourist areas of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  Using an inventive approach that balanced the needs of the neighborhood, a range of national and local government officials and the general citizenry’s desire to celebrate the new millennium, the project also embraced the city’s own rich history.

The new fountain sits at a significant crossroads of pedestrian traffic between the Byward Market and the government district in downtown Ottawa.  Indeed, the traffic island surrounding the fountain stands just blocks from Parliament Hill, the seat of Canada’s national government, and was intended from the start to serve as a focal point and gathering place.

Although small and comparatively simple, the project was complicated by the need to satisfy both local and national officials, which meant we had to incorporate

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Public Participations

From large, deck-level dancing fountains to small, toy-like interactive water effects, the art of enticing the public to participate in aquatic spaces has developed by leaps and bounds in recent years.  Here, Pam Pasotti of the fountain consulting firm of CMS Collaborative traces the evolution of these participatory installations with an eye toward distilling the lessons fountain designers have learned along the way.
From large, deck-level dancing fountains to small, toy-like interactive water effects, the art of enticing the public to participate in aquatic spaces has developed by leaps and bounds in recent years. Here, Pam Pasotti of the fountain consulting firm of CMS Collaborative traces the evolution of these participatory installations with an eye toward distilling the lessons fountain designers have learned along the way.
By Pamela Jay Pasotti

People don’t usually have trouble with boundaries and will honor requests to “Keep Out,” for example, or leave certain doors to “Employees Only.”   

But there are also cases where we generally take issue with limitations on behavior whether stated or implied, and I can think of no better instance in which this takes place than with water in public spaces.

Despite designers’ best efforts over the years to make it clear where bathers are welcome and where they are not, the public has steadily defied boundaries by trespassing into waters that were never directly designed for human interaction.  In fact, you might say that formal, decorative fountains are a forbidden fruit from which many of us have taken the occasional bite.

During the past two decades, watershape designers have looked very specifically at the irresistible urge we have to touch water in an effort to shape all-new boundaries between public nuisance and design nuance.  Along the way, we’ve learned which elements offer a deliberate, positive signal – a real “permission to play” – and are now wielding this power of interactivity to create and define a broad range of

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Dynamic Confluence

It isn’t unusual for big fountain projects to present unique challenges to their designers, outfitters and installers – and the one seen here is no exception.  But this uniquely sculpted project, with its rocks and boulders and state-of-the-art watershaping technology, was more satisfying than most for Jon Mitovich and the staff at Roman Fountains, who immersed themselves in the process of turning a landscape architect’s drawings into a functioning marvel.
It isn’t unusual for big fountain projects to present unique challenges to their designers, outfitters and installers – and the one seen here is no exception. But this uniquely sculpted project, with its rocks and boulders and state-of-the-art watershaping technology, was more satisfying than most for Jon Mitovich and the staff at Roman Fountains, who immersed themselves in the process of turning a landscape architect’s drawings into a functioning marvel.
By Jon Mitovich

Perhaps the hardest thing for a watershaper to accomplish is to take a set of someone else’s drawings, plans, sections and elevations, roll them all around together and come up with an accurate, three-dimensional, living interpretation of an architect’s vision.

The project shown here is a prime example of what’s involved in this process.  Designed by senior landscape architect Patrick Smith of the Austin, Texas, firm of Richardson Verdoorn, the plans called for three separate streams ranging in length from 50 to 80 feet (with each dropping 36 inches over various weirs) – all converging on a rocky

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Guiding the Lights

Numerous approaches to the illumination of decorative watershapes have been around for decades, but there’s keener interest in specific techniques for the lighting of moving water as the ‘fountain phenomenon’ reaches past the commercial realm and makes its way into the residential market.  In both settings, observes Crystal Fountains’ Paul L’Heureux, it’s always about maximizing the visual beauty of water.  (Photo by John Max Llorca)
Numerous approaches to the illumination of decorative watershapes have been around for decades, but there’s keener interest in specific techniques for the lighting of moving water as the ‘fountain phenomenon’ reaches past the commercial realm and makes its way into the residential market. In both settings, observes Crystal Fountains’ Paul L’Heureux, it’s always about maximizing the visual beauty of water. (Photo by John Max Llorca)
By Paul L’Heureux

It’s a simple notion:  When designing illumination for fountains and for watershapes in general, we as designers have the opportunity to choreograph the interaction of light, sound and motion to create visually compelling experiences.  

Just as painters mix colors to create desired shades, moods and movement within their compositions, watershapers can use the sounds created by moving water, the water’s visual effects, various materials of construction, the ambient (natural) light, any surrounding architecture and the tools of modern illumination technology to take these masterpieces to

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Mile-High Gallop

Located at the entrance to the new home for the National Football League’s Denver Broncos, this unique vertical watershape is the combination of ambitious visual design, massive bronze sculptures, complex cascades, rugged rockwork and delicate alpine landscaping – and all Jim Morris and his staff at Natural Pools & Waterfalls of Denver had to do was figure out how to make a grand concept work.
Located at the entrance to the new home for the National Football League’s Denver Broncos, this unique vertical watershape is the combination of ambitious visual design, massive bronze sculptures, complex cascades, rugged rockwork and delicate alpine landscaping – and all Jim Morris and his staff at Natural Pools & Waterfalls of Denver had to do was figure out how to make a grand concept work.
By Jim Morris

It’s not every day you get the chance to work on a project that’s going to be seen around the world by millions of people for decades to come.  

That was exactly the opportunity that came our way in October 1999, when we were asked by the Denver Broncos to construct an elaborate waterfeature at Invesco Field at Mile High, a brand-new stadium that opened at the beginning of the 2001 football season.

The project architect – HNTB Sports of Kansas City, Mo. – had developed

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Liquid Mettle

For more than two decades, California artist Rafe Affleck has been combining the crisp rigidity of stainless steel with the shimmering reflectivity of flowing water to create a substantial and distinctive body of work.  His sculptures, in which liquid is much, much more than a mere accent to metal, grace dozens of commercial, public and private spaces, in every case making bold statements that puzzle, delight, sooth or inspire those who pass by.
For more than two decades, California artist Rafe Affleck has been combining the crisp rigidity of stainless steel with the shimmering reflectivity of flowing water to create a substantial and distinctive body of work. His sculptures, in which liquid is much, much more than a mere accent to metal, grace dozens of commercial, public and private spaces, in every case making bold statements that puzzle, delight, sooth or inspire those who pass by.
By Rafe Affleck

From the beginning of my career as a sculptor, I’ve mostly given myself over to two simple elements – metal and water – and have tried to develop approaches that turn one into an extension of the other.

I like the sense that a sheet of flowing water completes the simple stainless steel shapes I create.  I also like to play with illusion by creating the impression that the water appears to come from nowhere.  And I like getting involved in the hydraulics of laminar flow by making the water emerge from steel as a smooth, cohesive sheet.

In a sense, I draw constant inspiration from

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Refined Expressions

The designers at the landscape architecture firm of Janet Rosenberg & Associates believe that water can be used in almost every setting to add interest, beauty and a sense of tranquility to their work.  What that means in design terms will change in response to a setting’s needs and a client’s expectations, say Janet Rosenberg and Glenn Herman – and can lead to solutions from the simple and retiring to the bold and complex.
The designers at the landscape architecture firm of Janet Rosenberg & Associates believe that water can be used in almost every setting to add interest, beauty and a sense of tranquility to their work. What that means in design terms will change in response to a setting’s needs and a client’s expectations, say Janet Rosenberg and Glenn Herman – and can lead to solutions from the simple and retiring to the bold and complex.
By Janet Rosenberg & Glenn Herman

No matter how it’s used – as a focal point in a design or as just another feature balanced among many – the thoughtful use of water offers landscape architects and other watershape designers a huge range of aesthetic opportunities.  Indeed, the water’s texture, reflectivity, sounds and sculptural qualities can all be used to enhance the observer’s experience as he or she moves through an environment, and in a near-infinite number of ways.

Regardless of how familiar one becomes with these attributes and using them in built spaces, the presence of water in a design often yields something new, interesting and even unexpected.  Whether you use it as a visual transition, a physical destination, an expression of nature or an architectural statement, water is

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Curbless Appeal

Of all watershapes now being installed in public settings, dry-deck fountains are among of the most popular – and for good reason, says fountain expert Jon Mitovich.  Their simplicity of appearance, dynamic interactive quality, compelling accessibility and basic safety have all increased the demand for these displays, he says, noting that they’ve quickly gone from novelty status to become a dominant strain in the evolution of contemporary waterfeatures.
Of all watershapes now being installed in public settings, dry-deck fountains are among of the most popular – and for good reason, says fountain expert Jon Mitovich. Their simplicity of appearance, dynamic interactive quality, compelling accessibility and basic safety have all increased the demand for these displays, he says, noting that they’ve quickly gone from novelty status to become a dominant strain in the evolution of contemporary waterfeatures.
By Jon Mitovich

Just as with species in the animal kingdom, architectural construction styles and techniques evolve over time, adapting to changes in the environment.

In the case of fountains, these evolutionary transitions have been both complex and indicative of broader trends.  Ancient wellsprings, for example, eventually gave way to decorative fountains with intricately carved stone sculptures.  More recently, monolithic block, walled and stepped fountain forms have held sway.  

It’s not much of a stretch to say that the latest significant “mutation” in this remarkable lineage is the dry-deck fountain:  At a time when open space is at a premium and the public is being invited as never before to interact and participate in the architectural landscape, dry-deck fountains may well be the

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Public Interests

In creating sculptures and watershapes inspired by local history, geography and natural features, public artist Ross Miller aims to delight and soothe all passersby while especially rewarding those who see a deeper meaning.  Whether the water in these compositions is vigorous and crashing or gentle and vaporous, he says, his goal is to shape spaces that celebrate local heritage and enrich the spirit of their communities.
In creating sculptures and watershapes inspired by local history, geography and natural features, public artist Ross Miller aims to delight and soothe all passersby while especially rewarding those who see a deeper meaning. Whether the water in these compositions is vigorous and crashing or gentle and vaporous, he says, his goal is to shape spaces that celebrate local heritage and enrich the spirit of their communities.
By Ross Miller

At its most basic, public art creates spaces in which people experience art without paying hard-earned dollars to own it or going to a museum or gallery to see it.

Public art is also about giving everyone within eyeshot new types of experiences amid their daily routines.  Perhaps it’s an object they’ll pass on the way to the subway or an environment they’ll spot out of the corner of an eye as they drive to the grocery store.  Maybe it’s a place where people gather to eat lunch or a landmark for arranging meetings with friends.  Whether it’s familiar to the viewer or sneaks up unexpectedly, the work becomes

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