Not to diminish the painted ponies of The Wizard of Oz, but Steve Mann’s hydraulophones are horses of a different color. These watershapes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from landmark centerpieces that have the sculptural grandeur of pipe organs all the way down to water-flutes that resemble brightly colored tadpoles.
What’s most remarkable about these devices isn’t just their structural and artistic variety or the ways they look as visual art: It’s the sounds they make. At first, the natural comparison is to a pipe organ, but as you listen, a variety of shadings and other sonic reverberations emerge, slip and slide around you.
What’s more, hydraulophones invite people to insert their fingers into the jetting water to shape the sound and squeeze out the shape of each note, and a variety of sonic textures are possible depending upon
By Robert Nonemaker
My dictionary defines a rill as a small stream cut by erosion. In the practice of watershaping, however, that colorful little word has been stretched to cover manufactured channels in which we artfully move water from one place to another.
These often-subtle effects have a history dating at least to the 5th Century BC, when Persian kings demonstrated their power over nature by using rills to bring water – a symbol of fertility as well as a practical means of cooling architectural spaces – from rivers and aqueducts to their palaces.
These early rills were observed and adopted by Muslim designers and engineers who rose to eminence in the Middle East more than a millennium later and were carried along as Islamic influence spread through India, North Africa and, eventually, Spain, where signature elements of Moorish architecture are still seen today in the famous
By Sven Schunemann
I was out of a job in Gloucester, England, several years back when I came across a collection of wonderfully unusual sculptures that changed my life.
These compositions, called Flowforms, were the work of British sculptor John Wilkes, an inspired artist who for most of his professional life has explored ways to use water’s nature and characteristics as his medium.
I was immediately drawn to what I saw: I’d worked as an estate gardener before being trained as a sculptor at the St. Martin School of Art in London and had always had an interest in natural forms and all sorts of experimental media. I had also spent a good part of
By Bruce Kania
There may still be some who resist the idea, but by now it is verifiable fact that plant material can be used to treat and purify water in artificial watershapes as well as in natural bodies of water. For decades, in fact, scientists have borne witness to these processes in natural wetlands – so much so that today, these concepts are being studied around the world using artificial wetlands and floating islands that mimic natural structures and processes.
Our firm, Floating Island International of Shepherd, Mont., is predictably focused on the floating island concept. In our efforts to understand all of the nuances and specifics of how plants on floating islands can be used to best advantage, we have made contact and worked worldwide with scores of independent researchers and institutions across a range of settings, applications and agendas.
Yes, we’ve been gratified by the resulting findings and the benefits that reportedly flow from use of our systems. In a more important and greater context, however, we see this collection of empirical data and anecdotal evidence as conclusive proof that biological water treatment is not only viable, but is also surprisingly
By Jim Wilder
Among the wonderful benefits of working in the custom watershaping business is that you never really know what sort of projects will wander into view.
Through the years, we at Live Water Creations of Santa Rosa, Calif., have certainly participated in developing and executing some unusual designs, but I can honestly say that working on one that included a huge, beautiful steel pyramid topped by a deep-space telescope was something that had yet to come our way.
And it would have stayed that way had I not received a call from John Anderson of Pools by Rapp, another firm here in Santa Rosa. We’ve collaborated on other projects in which our firm has built ponds or fountains to go along with pools and spas he’s done. In this case, he was installing a lap pool and wanted our help in what he could only describe as an extremely unusual watershape.
The client said he had just built a beautiful contemporary home and, as an astronomy buff, wanted to complete the package with
By Mark Holden & Jim Bucklin
Wanting to soften and humanize the austere appearance of a new facility for homeless families, the benefactors of the Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin, Calif., commissioned an unusual watershape. The idea pulled watershaper Mark Holden and project manager Jim Bucklin into a whirlwind in which they had to create unique systems to accommodate the world’s largest ceramic amphora – and do so within an extraordinarily tight deadline.
What happens when one of the country’s wealthiest philanthropists provides funding for a truly unique art piece in support of a favorite cause? The short answer is, everyone jumps to make it happen.
That was literally the situation when a nonprofit organization that serves the needs of homeless families received a donation from its largest benefactor to fund construction of an unusual fountain system. The waterfeature, we learned, was to support the world’s largest amphora, which at that time was just being completed by a Danish artist.
Destined for the courtyard of a new facility about to be
By Bruce Zaretsky
I must say that I look forward to receiving my own copy of WaterShapes in the mail each month. It’s not because I can’t wait to see my own columns in print; rather, it’s because so I’m amazed and inspired by the work watershapers put on display here that I always devour each and every page.
That’s not, by the way, anything I’d say about the rest of the 30-odd trade magazines I receive via mail or e-mail. WaterShapes always seems to deal with the best of the best, and reading about how these incredible projects come together is
By Michael Batchelor & Andrey Berezowsky
Challenged to develop a sculpture that would make a strong statement about the commissioning company’s expertise in engineering and motion-control technology, Michael Batchelor and Andrey Bererzowsky of Montreal’s SWON Design delivered a work of subtle beauty to an otherwise stark architectural context. Here’s a close look at the resulting medley of textured glass, sheeting water, gleaming steel and arcing jets, all set within curving ponds.
With residential projects, the importance of understanding the character and focus of the client is widely recognized and appreciated. Although the scales are different and the “clients” may be committees, we’ve discovered that the same is basically true with commercial projects as well.
A case in point is this project, which we completed for Parker Hannifin, the Mayfield, Ohio-based manufacturer of engineering components and a multi-billion-dollar company whose products are found on everything from Space Shuttles to precision industrial machinery. Appropriately, the sculpture we were asked to design was to reflect a highly refined, disciplined sense of beauty.
We at SWON Design were first contacted by an independent marketing consultant, Karen Skunta, who was participating in the company’s effort to re-brand itself – a program that, in part, included
By George Forni
Every so often, a project comes along that evolves as it rolls along, and what starts out as one set of tasks and parameters morphs to become something entirely different before it’s through.
That was certainly the case on this residential-lake project: Located in the hills above Napa Valley, Calif., the job put us in touch with affluent, intelligent, fun-loving clients who had initially contacted us about the straightforward restoration of a dying lake located at the base of a ravine beset with unchecked plant growth and rattlesnakes.
None of that was new to us: We
By Johannes H. Wagner & Eugene R. Bolinger
The site was chosen because the existing water, terrain and natural landscape were a perfect fit: Like no other available space, the design team saw that this setting could be used to symbolize the character of Vietnam’s landscape – wetlands and bogs, water crossings, hills and forests, meadows and plains – and shaped into a memorial to casualties of a war that ended in Southeast Asia nearly three decades ago.
It’s a beautiful and peaceful space, one that now encompasses four acres of land around the perimeter of Duck Pond, a small and scenic body of water nestled in the gently rolling landscape of
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
By Nate Reynolds
When you ask people about transparent building materials, most people immediately think of glass.
Glass is certainly stronger than most people realize, but it has never been an ideal structural material because of its weight, brittleness and structural limitations. With our acrylic products, by contrast, architects and other designers have found a material with which they can create substantial transparent structures that are much lighter and more versatile than those made with glass – and with a structural strength more than double that of concrete.
R-Cast acrylic (as we call it) is indeed an amazing material: Its uses span from the obvious pools, fountains or aquariums to awesome signage and seemingly impossible structures and lighting (to mention a few possibilities). Its combination of optical clarity with safety, strength, flexibility and UV resistance has allowed an increasing numbers of designers across a range of disciplines to embrace the material as never before.
There are several firms that provide acrylic materials to the construction marketplace, with
By Aviram Müller
Certainly one of the world’s most unusual watershaping achievements, ‘Le Reve’ is a Las Vegas-style aquatic production that carries audiences into an amazing dream world of water, light, music and incredible acrobatic skill. To achieve the water effects, former Cirque du Soleil producer Franco Dragone turned to Aviram Müller and Canada’s Kaarajal Design Aquatique – and the result is a marriage of watershaping art and technology unlike any other.
Franco Dragone’s design team first contacted me late in 2003. His company, which organizes groups of design firms to create some of the world’s most elaborate stage productions, was working on a new Las Vegas extravaganza for hotelier Steve Wynn.
Wynn’s properties are famous for their water effects, including the wonderful fountains in front of Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip. I was told that his then-current project, the Wynn Resort, was to feature similarly spectacular water elements – one of which was to be