The Landscape Guide











4.6 Planning a water feature

Contents list

One might think nothing simpler than planning a fountain and pool. A garden centre can supply one with all the means: a pre-formed liner, a hosepipe, and a fountain kit. They simplify pool construction, and, more often than not, produce the most hideous results (Figure 4). The pool shapes are ugly, the pumps whine, the fountains make one think it is raining, the plastic becomes stained and discoloured. But water is the lifeblood of towns and gardens. What can be done? Good water features require the conjunction of, at least, a social pattern with an aesthetic pattern. As there have been so many abject failures in pool design, it would be wise to employ a good archetypal pattern, and no bad thing to make a response to a natural pattern.

Lawrence Halprin has the unusual distinction of having devised a successful new archetypal pattern that is eminently reproducible: the walk-through canyon fountain. The first of its type, at Portland in Oregon, has a geometrical character (a tertiary pattern), which was inspired by a primary pattern: the natural waterfalls of the Sierra Nevada. The secondary pattern upon which it rests is the ancient human desire to be surrounded by water and able to leap from rock to rock.

Mostly, pool and fountain designers have revealed an outstanding ability to go wrong with each of the pattern types. They ignore the sun by placing pools in cold shady places; they forget about reflections; they disregard the beauty of ice; they allow water to be blown over pedestrians. They display a lack of consideration for social patterns by forgetting the different ways in which people enjoy water in different climates: in cold places they design water features that make people feel colder; in hot places they discourage paddling. They forget the joy of geometrical patterns and they go astray with the technology of water retention and water-edge detailing. If one has a bad archetype, it is difficult to produce aesthetically pleasing designs.

Fig 4.4 A garden pool, made from garden centre supplies: it is ghastly.

Designing good water features IS possible.