Water in the Landscape

Wall Fountains and Water Tables

Water is always a compelling visual and aural feature in a landscape. When a small garden needs a focal point, consider the wall fountain. It can mask street noise or draw the eye and is especially useful as a way to lend character to narrow side yards.  Prefabricated examples abound, like this X3 trough unit from Garden Fountains

cm-FT-125-375 X3 fountain

or the slim Echo fountain shown below, also from Garden Fountains.

cm-FT-119-375 echo fountain from gardenfountain

This contemporary example from W Studio, below, bends a wall-like water feature into a piece of sculpture.

copper1 water studio

If there is more space or an existing pool, a built-in wall fountain can add a dramatic effect. Dallas landscape architect David Rolston specializes in the design of gardens with water features as focal points. Several of his projects show how inventive the simple wall fountain can be.

Closeup_of_fountain_wall_portfolio_spillway by Davild Ralston

The small spillway in the low wall turns an entire swimming pool into a fountain.

Rolston_water_wall_SMALL_portfolio_detail fishpond by david ralston

Or here’s a more rustic feature spilling into a small fishpond from a masonry wall.

Spa_chute_portfolio_detail david rolston

This playful chute makes me want to float toy boats down it.

If a more contemplative feel is what you want, a reflecting pool might work — for moonrises and cloudscapes. Here’s a London roof deck that uses the simplest palette of materials — a raised sheet of water, decking, horizontal wood fence, grasses, and a brick chimney — to create a serene outdoor room.

London roof terrace by Jinny Blom

The pool is literally a water — er coffee — table as reflecting pool. The design and the photograph are by garden designer Jinny Blom. In a way it’s a descendant of the original water table idea from the Renaissance,

Villa Lante cardinal's water table by leogiordani

like the one at the Villa Lante near Viterbo in Italy, built for a cardinal, as part of a grand terraced water garden (photographed by leogiordani).  It’s more table than pool; the cardinal liked to cool his wine bottles in the trough at the center (still a good idea!) and the small stream ran through the table and down to the next terrace.

Something a little jazzier, perhaps, with overtones of ancient rituals via Las Vegas, not Rome,

matt basalt fire reflecting pool by archt Korn randolph, water studio

is the fire and water reflecting pool made of basalt by architect Korn Randolph from Water Studio for a Hollywood residence.

Nature and Nurture

Since we’re speaking of water in the landscape, I have to mention a particularly wonderful public example that I just revisited in Portland, Oregon while attending a family wedding. It’s the largest wall fountain around, on par with the Trevi in Rome.

Portland fountain and wedding 009

The Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain was designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin in 1970. Halprin’s work includes the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D. C., Freeway Park in Seattle,  and the master plan for Sea Ranch.

Portland fountain and wedding 007

The fountain impressed me anew with its power as an interactive  art piece.  The park covers a small sloping city block. At the top, water streams out of the earth in widening channels that stair-step down to deep polygonal pools before roaring over chiseled 30-foot-high concrete cliffs and into the swirl below.  In the roiling pool at the base of the escarpment overlapping concrete platforms appear to float above the water. It’s like a flooding stone quarry — abstract and “super” natural at the same time.

Portland fountain and wedding 012

Larry’s wife is the dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin and you can see her influence: the fountain is an irresistible stage play: call it “Total Immersion In Nature.” When I was there several children and at least one adult waded into and around every part of it, galvanized by such a thundering castle of confluence. It  made me think about how the water and the structure work on each each other to create something different, new, and compelling. This is the power of landscape on a public scale. And while most private landscapes can’t include such grand gestures, the best residential gardens help us find refreshment in the natural world in much the same way.

One response to “Water in the Landscape

  1. Thank you for the wonderful article. The fountains filled me with awe and awaken the dreams …
    WOW! Thanks once again for the sharing of these unforgettable pictures.

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