The World’s Fountains

In a parallel Universe, I once wrote a blog for a local Louisville company: Pond And Fountain World. (link included). In so doing, it has allowed me to study and roam around, looking at an absolutely fascinating subject. Not only does the blog feature what they sell – currently-retailed pond and fountain accouterments, including an excellent selection of pre-made fountains, ready to deliver and install – but it also gives me the right and reason to explore the entirety of the world of fountains, internationally.

Wow! What a treat. Below from The University of Connecticut’s Waterbury Campus:


The designs of those who build these things come from a creativity one can only guess at in its artistic purity, apparent freedom and in their sometimes overal simple immensity. “Mind-boggling” comes to mind as we tour the most outlandish and absolutely breath-taking water-art sculptures, sitting as so many do in the public squares of our major cities. From the work of Lawrence Halprin in Portland, Oregon –


My great good friend, Steve, gets to sit at the bottom of Halprin’s Ira Keller Fountain in the face of the seeming vastness of the fountain while it crashes down, so nearby:


These gorgeous civic fountains are now becoming less formal and more amenable to “audience participation” these days – a welcome respite from an overly-litigious society in general, which I welcome wholeheartedly:


Here is Halprin’s stunning blend of  “The Natural” and “The Modern” work at the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC, shown here at night –

HALPRIN_Lawrence_FDR_Memorial_Naitonal_Mall_ded_May_2_1997_DC_source_LS_d100_Some History

Fountains were initially creations which were fed from aqueducts – the original plumbing apparatus, dating back at least 2,500 years. Often, these aqueducts would send water downwards, creating the pressure which allowed the newly-minted fountains in Greece, for initial historical example, to spurt water out for public and private consumption. Fountains and public water sources, fed by the rivers, lakes and streams in the mountains, began appearing around 260 BC in Ancient Greece. The notion of “siphoning” became pioneered and created works which could allow water to run or not run, depending on opening and closing a valve.

In the end, aqueducts would literally terminate in city centers or plaza’s where the resulting pressure and large quantities of water supplied could be more fully appreciated by attaching art work and form to the terminus.

The Trevi Fountain, in fact, Rome’s famous “Fountain Of Love” featured by Hollywood so many times, was just this sort of product.

Trevi Fountain at Night

(Picture credit here to Tour Of Rome, along with the quote below, capsulizing better than I could, a brief history of its construction.)

“There had been a source of water at this site for over a thousand years, although it was not until 1485 that Pope Nicholas V commissioned Gianlorenzo Bernini to create the fountain, but the project had to be abandoned when Pope Urban VIII died in 1644. Then in 1732, Niccolò Salvi was employed by Pope Clement XII to continue with the work, with the result being the Baroque masterpiece that completely dominates the little square today.”


For me, it is the mixture of “chthonic” elements – fit for the Gods alone – which assemble in the primordial primitive juxtaposition of the  jagged rocks which also seem  to be emitted by and to be so “at one” with the building behind. Like our own consciousness, we see a remarkable blend of the absolutely most Elemental mixed with the modern human and more mundane elements of muscle, posture and expressions. A fountain like this hits our perceptions in mental regions usually reserved for art. But then, who said fountains are not art?

Another personality who found the Lunatic Fringe of Modern Fountains is a Japanese designer named Isamu Noguchi. Below is his what is arguably his most famous work – his famous “Nine Floating Fountains”, constructed for the Osaka World’s Fair in 1970.

Here it is in daylight, obviously on a windy day –


And below is the night-time look for which it has become so famous:


But Mr. Noguchi was not done. He obviously loved the impractical and the utterly whimsical – and he was a master at it:


He also had a definite sense of humor!


We owe debts of gratitude on an unimaginable scale to the artists who have taken our technologies and our appreciation for Water Art to absolutely absurd but-always-interesting lengths.

Some of them have driven cities and countries to drink! Take Mr. Vaillancourt’s concrete irritation to the city of San Fransisco’s more “proper” sensibilities as an example. “Please”, many said, “take it!”. 😉


Some folks just need a sense of humor!

Can’t we all be friends?

william pye vortex fn

Fountains are very nearly a “First Love” for me. It would not take much to get me all the way there, either.


Can I get some Love for the Paris Stravinsky Fountain???


P6031001 Stravinsky Fountain

The Kid’s View Of Owensboro River Park

Hide the women and childrens! The park is finished. Man, what an impressive space – for kids too, but for the grownups as well. I could not help but admire it all.

From a landscaper and planner’s perspective this entire edifice, from the fountains to the sinewy, beckoning and welcoming walking surfaces to the exceptionally riveting playground, this extremely cool park hits no false notes.

The scary, looming trees hold animals doing animal stuff – a squirrel eating an acorn, (are those good?) a Cardinal scouring his surroundings, various bugs, caterpillars,  ‘varmits’ and creatures all belonging with those who play in this delightful large playground.

The proof of the success of this mighty sweaty adventure land was recently proven by a small family who visited my book subject, Jack Hicks recently. Jack’s old friends from Hawesville were packing their grand children, two girls aged 4 and 2, on their Owensboro adventure and decided to stop into the park on their way over to Jack’s house. They were quite taken with the place – so much so that, after two hours, they rounded them up for the trip to Jack’s.

It brought tears.

This pair was enjoying themselves in spades. With promises of a return after their visit to see Jack and drop off all their absolutely crazy good food – a yearly ritual of this family’s – the girls relented, reluctantly.

Which was great because they had a fabulous visit with Jack, as always. On their way out, Jack said you could see their eyes light up at the mention of getting back down to the park. Hilariously, Jack said they called him a few hours later, finally leaving the park again for the trek home.

He said “You could hear the girls crying in the background again!”  Ha ha, this park is too darn good!

The red and brown walking/running surfaces are especially spongy and soft. They are a supremely comfy walk as grown up shoes sink in a good inch or more, like walking on a bed. Obvious safety features abound, for once not deterring from the ambiance or atmosphere whatsoever – in fact, integral with it all. It is supremely well-devised and I say this as a contractor who has installed many very similar structures – though not to this scale. There is also a gorgeous little more open area of water jets, supplying heat relief in Summer in yet another fun atmosphere.

The big old artificial trees which caused local consternation over their cost may indeed have been pricey but their reward is truly great. They dominate the scene, offering this organic massiveness and rather stable presence, anchoring all the structures which pass around and through them. They add a complete whimsical truth to it all, appealing to kids in ways which I suspect we can only guess. The incredible detail of the bark and their color is fascinating in its craftsmanship. They are consistent over every inch of their enormous presence, a perfection which no one can miss, up close.

Just delightful.

The view from either side of the kid’s playground is satisfying to adults in ways which require no especial effort. This park pleases the eye from a remarkable number of perspectives.

The Town Christmas Tree above looms over architecturally-fascinating structures all over the place. As does this view below of the new building project on the site of the old Executive Inn, with now-quiet fountains, resplendent in their stone veneers.

.Pretty gorgeous stuff altogether. Low key, modern, super clean with intricate, complex  and flowing walking surfaces everywhere.

 One tends to even forget there is a mile wide river this entire thing borders on.

The World Bluegrass Hall Of Fame sits next door, inside the gorgeous new performance center where world class acts perform regularly. It shares design themes – especially the walkways – with our park here, making everything extend and tie together incredibly well.

Another year of plant growth will revolutionize the current look. 2-5 more years and it will be essentially unrecognizable from its current look. I’m going to enjoy watching very much.

I’ll definitely want to come back – I always do – But I won’t cry when I leave.

I’m a grown up, dangit!

Louisville’s The Parklands at Floyd’s Fork – A Rave – Part 2

There are some splendid writings in current circulation relative to this park. Naturally, the park’s own website is rife with good stuff, especially that written by noted author and local resource and legend, Bob Hill. Bob’s ongoing blog which deals with the local history and the families who once owned these lands is enlightening and in depth. Eventful throughout history, from early pioneer settlements through the Civil War up to today, this strategic region has played abundant roles.

This is the link to Bob’s Journal:

(all pictures enlarge with a click) (The first one’s a bit too big) 😉

The Bridges

The bridges in this park – 7 of them – form an essential architectural feature but also reveal the playful sense of uniqueness which will forever mark the forward-thinking design team and its permanent edifice of a park for the ages. Once again, Bob Hill weighs in on his blog about the very bridge design and then the construction itself – and even the guys and gals who put all the pieces together. (Click for Bob’s blog entry)

From the blog: “Below the girders, massive rectangular blocks of limestone cut from a Bedford, IN., quarry had already laid in place along the river’s edge to provide stability – and heighten the visual effect.

The blocks – some eight feet long, five feet wide and almost five feet tall and weighing up to 16,000 pounds – also had been carefully inched into place on long cables. Limestone blocks would also be used alongside the bridge – and were randomly scattered about the landscape near the bridge – to add to its sense of place.

I was blown away by these gorgeous blocks of pure limestone, crystallized, heavy as hell and cut amazingly perfectly. I mean to a Tee. I kept climbing over them on my own visit, wanting to know more about them. I really wanted to weigh them, lol. Don’t tell anyone, please. I’m addicted to rocks.

They were everywhere

It seemed as though the producers had gone nutzo – the monstrous perfectly-cut boulders simply materialized in strange places together.

Now and then you can find them singly – just sitting there like a seat.

These, then, are the “Leaping Bridges” Bob Hill refers to. But here are two more absolutely gorgeous bridges – one which may not even be categorized as a bridge. This one:

I suspect this actually qualifies as a “culvert” which makes it even cooler. How beautiful.

Now this bridge happens to be my current favorite. Not “leaping” – merely flat and a span to just get over, ignoring what is underneath would be a mistake. Incredibly, the most remarkable facet of this span is all underneath.

Back to the ‘leapers’ –

Bob again: “It’s much as this deer is leaping over the fence,” said Walters. “That’s the idea of the bridge. It has this big muscular side that’s not an arch and it lands on the other side. There’s a sense of movement in the railings.”

These are not your everyday railings. These ones “lean”.  😉

Once again, every glimmer into this fab park reveals yet another level of a purely awesome concept, of fascinating and challenging design work and with a respect for installation craftsmanship of the very highest order. Much as how the bridges in Cherokee Park right in the midst of downtown Louisville express the same marvelous patience and control wrought by the best craftsmen of its day, the bridges here simply reflect an overall competence that matches the deliriously excellent designs.

Here’s a special section I created regarding the bridges at Cherokee Park. I believe you will see the same similarities I recognize with this gorgeous construction.

Louisville’s The Parklands of Floyd’s Fork – A Rave – part 1

The modest title notwithstanding, The Parklands of Floyd’s Fork is a world-class, cutting  edge project which has barely opened and already gathers astounded visitors who dive deeply into a park designed to, as Frederick Olmstead so eloquently put it: “Bring nature into neighborhoods.” The brainchild of visionary men who succeeded at commerce and who want to give back, David Jones and his friends listed in the links supplied below have created a wondrous and special place.

Louisville has opted to revisit Olmstead’s vision and they have succeeded magnificently so far. It is trend-setting, newsworthy to the rest of the world and illustrates humanity’s better angels in ways that take one’s breath. It’s a home run.

My Mom and I went out this past weekend to sample it, having read that November 10 was more or less the real opening date for traffic and visitors. I have followed the progress of this park through their website for quite some time, including from my days in Reno and Portland.

Recognizing that Fall has spent itself substantially, presenting the always-bittersweet vision of trees with few remaining leaves, the baseball World Series all tucked in (Go Giants!) and even football season 3/4 finished, we await dismal Winter. Here’s proof:

(all pictures enlarge upon clicking)

There was a buoyancy delivered like a good meal to our journey which we were frankly not prepared for. We got very lucky.

We visited this excellent parkland.

Needless to say, I scurried around as my interest grew, taking pictures. After spending that day and parts of this morning over there, allow me to opine that I am other-worldly impressed with the attention to detail in the construction and the mature and professional  naturalism in their restorations. This park is something special. No – it is stunning.

Bike trails, hiking trails, a kid’s playground of heavenly dimension, all studded and redolent with craftsmanship at the installation end. Hidden excellence abounds throughout as we see otherwise innocuous plantings and obvious new construction details of plantings, grass seeding and restoration via native plantings which comprise the landscaping end of things. It is a virtual horticultural museum in the making.

Scenes as simple as this – above – hide a deeper planning whereby every single blade and shrub or tree in this picture is carefully considered as an organic contribution to a whole. The same applies to this one below:

The species’ of grass itself, including wildflowers in many cases, is illustrated as “selected” by virtue of the straw still seen everywhere as it nurses with a typical protective cover – this region’s typical Winterizing tactic – the young seeds underneath.

You have to love the Egg Lawn. 😉

The playground I could live at, but then, no one is surprised at that, as childish as I tend to act on a regular basis. What’s perhaps most noteworthy, aside from the cool apparatii, all shiny new and swirling in playful invitation, are the various dry stone walls, shown in depth here and so perfectly made. But it may be their placement – 3 layers deep – which provide an eye-catching asymmetry both subtle and arresting and existing for no real reason at all. It reminds us of the perfect role “play” has played in invention and the progress of us all. This is a playful and satisfying design of the first order.

What a wonderful park – parts natural and man made elements combine in serendipitous fashion, enhanced by deeply considered effort and playing off one another as elements at play. Nothing conflicts that I could see. Everything fits into synch with this wonderfully historical area, so rich in history and in beauty.

Next time, we’ll investigate the buildings and bridges – both elements of totally surprising artfulness. For now, for anyone the least bit curious, here is the link to both the park and a small history of its generation.