Flowing Illusion
From time to time, I'll come across a fountain or waterfeature where jets or streams of water are used to suggest "motion" on the part of an accompanying fixed object. The objects in question are typically made of stone or metal - that is, materials embodying solidity, heft, timelessness and the utter absence of motion. Many years ago, as one example, we published an article by frequent WaterShapes contributor Randy Beard, who wrote about a composition he worked on in which a platform of flowing water at the base of a sculpture of a breaching whale served to suggest it had recently broken the water's surface (click here). And one of my all-time favorites is the galloping-horse sculpture in Dallas, where the hooves of some in the line of dashing equine splendor raise splashes from a stream they're crossing (click here). A half-dozen other examples of fountains of this type also come quickly to mind, but you get the idea. Done well, this is a cool, softening, naturalizing, communicative, engaging approach - and it gets even better when you're just walking along the street and happen to catch the offered illusion at a favorable angle. That happened to me not long ago on a visit to San Diego, Calif., where I was walking along and minding my own business when I came across "Bow Wave," a fountain in which the business end of a big ship plies its way through water washing along its flanks. At a glance, it suggests the abundant thrust of a ship's passage as well as the massive resistance it had to overcome to make any headway. From most angles, you can see that the ship is cut off a short distance back of the bow, but I first saw it in such a way that the leading edge of the sculpture was coming right at me (pretty much at the same angle seen in the image above). It's quite a nice illusion when it catches you off guard - and a slightly startling one at that. Designed and sculpted by Malcolm Leland and installed in San Diego's Civic Center Plaza in 1972, the composition does a wonderful job in its suggestion of motion; in fact, it's among the best I've ever seen. Its success, alas, reminds me of the horror I felt when I saw that the fountain basin for "The Runner" had been insensitively redesigned in St. Louis: There, the entire, previously successful illusion of motion was cut off by thoughtless jet placement (click here); in San Diego, by contrast, Leland got it just right. The sculptor was something of a local celebrity in San Diego, but I can find no other instances in which he put his elemental skill as a watershaper to use in any way. That's a pity, because he certainly knew how to put that medium to good use - simple, but effective. San Diego's not a big town. The next time you're there for business or pleasure, wander by the Civic Center Plaza and be prepared for a nautical treat.
2018/3.1, March 7 — Working for Heroes, Poolside Spaces, Safe-Water Quest and more
HaddonStone Manufactures Triple-Ball Fountain
HaddonStone (USA) Ltd. (Pueblo, CO) makes a triple-ball fountain for gardens and landscapes. With its…
Brilliant Wonders from Custom Molded Products
Custom Molded Products (Tyrone, GA) manufactures Brilliant Wonders, a waterfall system with built-in LED lighting.…
Deco Wall Scuppers from Fountains Unique
Fountains Unique (Laguna Hills, CA) manufactures wall scuppers in a Deco style that works in…
Unadulterated Fun
I've been writing these Travelogues once or twice a month since 2011, and a request from a reader for information about a particularly famous watershape revealed a significant gap in our information base: To my astonishment, I recognized I'd never written about the Fountains of Bellagio, which is a bit embarrassing when you consider it's one of my all-time favorites. I saw it for the first time while attending the Aqua Show more than a decade ago. I was staying down the street at the Luxor (accommodations, I must say, not quite up to the Bellagio's standard); after returning from an excessively fine dinner with some Genesis 3 friends, I decided a long walk would do me good. I reached the Bellagio at about 10 pm without too many preconceptions: I'd heard about the place, of course, and had seen a couple photos, but I wasn't prepared for what I found. I don't know how long I stood at the railing, moving from spot to spot to take in the scene from as many angles as I could, but I know it must have been at least an hour. The whole time, I kept thinking, "This is why I love what I do." The display was simply sublime, an experience that still makes me feel good about how much energy I've put into the advancement of watershaping as an art form. I've been back at that same railing many more times through the years, loving every minute of it. What particularly impresses me now is watching the sheer joy in the faces of so many of the people alongside me: There are lots of cool watershapes in the world, but very few of them are transcendent enough to become communal celebrations the way this fountain does. The Fountains of Bellagio are, of course, the work of the designers and builders at WET Design (Sun Valley, Calif.), and I've always considered this project to be among the greatest expressions of the watershaping arts in the history of the planet. For me, in fact, it's the first among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World (no matter what the other six might be). Other projects have come along to rival them, but these fountains deserve all the respect that comes with real trailblazing. There's a lot to like about the original, including the excellent choreography, the thoughtful musical selections and the brilliant lighting program. My personal favorite detail, however, goes unseen and largely unheralded: It's the fact that the water comes from a well that had been used to irrigate a golf course abandoned when the Bellagio was built. Even with the jetting water and all that splashing in the middle of a desert, the fountains consume less water than the turf always did. I do, however, have a quick, sad story to tell. My wife is a schoolteacher, and getting her to travel with me to trade show has been a rare treat. I persuaded her to come with me to Las Vegas some years ago because I knew that I was to be named Pig #8 or #9 by Genesis 3 and I wanted her to witness the ceremony. Afterwards, I took her to the Bellagio to see the fountain: It was a cold, blustery night, and when we finally reached the railing, we saw the basin covered in whitecaps and learned that the water show had been cancelled for the night. I don't know if I'll have the chance to try again at sharing the Fountains of Bellagio with her, but for the rest of you, here's my edict: It's a trip worth making, an experience well worth sharing and a special event that makes going to Las Vegas a pleasure, every time. For a unique behind-the-scenes perspective and some history, click here. To see one of the best possible combinations of music and fountain choreography, click here - and please stick with it to witness the aquatically pyrotechnic crescendo!
Sound and Motion
Making the transition from printed magazine to digital newsletter has been interesting, to say the least.   I never thought I’d even think something like this, but there are so many advantages to the “new media” approach that I wouldn’t even consider doubling back to ink and paper at this point. One limitation that always bothered me in print, for example, was the fact that my art director and I had to select from among so many nice, wonderful, big photographs and crunch them down into tiny spaces.  To be sure, we balanced the small ones with lots of large ones, but I can’t think of too many features in which I didn’t wish for extra
Cascading Insights
This past April, my wife Gina and I spent two wonderful weeks in Hawaii. As is true of most of those who visit our 50th state, we were mainly there to relax and enjoy warm weather, tropical Pacific waters, breathtaking scenery, fine cuisine and laid-back Hawaiian culture.  As has been the case for countless others who’ve been there, we were not disappointed:  Hawaii is everything people have said it is and much, much more. As a watershape designer, I had the added pleasure of being able to study a huge number of waterfalls and streams that mark many of the islands’ most appealing landscapes, particularly on Maui and Kauai.  It was one of those happy situations where
Spirited Waters
In 1997, the City of Palm Springs Arts Commission held a national competition for a sculpture to be placed in a prominent public space, the Frances Stevens Park.  I was intrigued by the site's high visibility - and by the fact that the California city wanted a sculpture that used water in a desert setting.   Working from my studio on the East Coast, I put together an initial proposal that included a number of ideas - provocative to me, but not yet fine-tuned.   It wasn't until I actually visited the site in Round Two of the selection process that I knew just how perfect a setting was being offered - a wide-open space in the center of town, ringed by tall palm trees and low-lying buildings with the stunning
The Most Natural Companion
Images of waterways almost anywhere in the world are filled with gentle sweeps of free-flowing grasses swaying in the breezes or simply lazing by the water's edge. From a watershaper's perspective, these grasses are arguably the most versatile of all plant materials.  In one form or another, they exist and thrive in almost every environment in the world.  They can be used by themselves to lend a natural feeling to a stream or pond, next to a contemporary watershape to make a bold statement or nestled among almost any other plants in any landscape style to soften and add texture. One of the best things about grasses (particularly the taller ones) is how gracefully they wave in the wind, adding an element of