February 24, 2009

12 Great Modern Fountains

The point of this list was to find interesting fountain designs that are truly modern, something that is rare, since fountains are luxurious, flowing and decorative by nature.

For example Rome's Trevi fountain may be a masterpiece, but trying to recreate classical splendor today always looks awful and kitsch. The horrid water display at the Vegas Bellagio is a case in point, opulence without craft. In fairness, its designers, WET design have produced many other much more interesting designs which balance fun with restraint.

Here are some of our favorite designs, from computer controlled fountains such as the wonderful animated version at Detroit Airport to Chicago's celebrated screen based Crown fountain.

William Pye - Charybdis Water Vortex Seaham Hall, England

Why we picked this: This is something that is all about execution. If it were too small or the container were badly made it would be uninteresting. But at this scale, in a perfectly made, transparent cylinder, it is fantastic and a perfect example of modernist simplicity.

The sirens Charybdis and Scylla resided in the Sicilian Sea. Homer tells us that because Charybdis had stolen the oxen of Hercules, Zeus struck her with a thunderbolt and changed her into a whirlpool whose vortex swallowed up ships. In Charybdis the circular movement of water inside a transparent acrylic cylinder forms an air-core vortex in the centre. Steps wrap around the cylinder and allow spectators to view the vortex from above. The cylinder was manufactured in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Charybdis is William Pye's largest vortex water sculpture to date, and he has used for only the second time the clear acrylic polymer he employed in Clearwater Cube. This material has enabled Pye to extend his sculptural language and to explore more ways in which to challenge the wayward element of water. A high level of water filtration is essential for maintaining transparency and thereby expressing the drama of the vortex.

Modernist Fountain within Mexican Silver Mine

Why we picked this: It reminded us of the monolith in 2001 A.D. or The Sentinel, a mysterious, crystaline shape, buried

Spiral Corian fountain by Gwenael Nicolas of Curiosity
Why we picked this: This is our personal favorite, a beautifully made piece of sculpture made out of a material (Corian) that is not considered sexy or luxurious, but clearly can be.

Jaume Plensas Crown Fountain in ChicagoWhy we picked this:Water and electricity don't always mix safely. This brings back the idea of water flowing through various bodily orifices with modern billboard like decoration rather than stone sculptures.
The fountain is composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers. The towers are 50 feet (15.2 m) tall,[1] and they use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to display digital videos of Chicago residents, as well as those of natural scenes

Seattle Center Variable Pressure Fountain
Why we picked this: There are many animated fountains that encourage people to play in the jets, however, the hemisphere shape enhances the fact that this is a centerpiece, very well.

This fountain sits in a bowl, its water spraying with varying degrees of force and at different intervals.

Vaillancourt Fountain, San Francisco
Why we picked this: This is the complete opposite of the shallow curved shapes of baroque fountains, a ruthlessly rectilinear pile of dripping concrete pipes. Its a beautiful sewage outlet - fantastic.

Armand Vaillancourt's sculpture « Qu├ębec libre ! ». This fountain can be found at the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, California. It is locally known as the "Vaillancourt Fountain".

It is a huge concrete fountain, 200 feet long, 140 feet wide and 36 feet high

Water Mobile Venus Jardin du Luxemburg

Lotta Hannerz, Water Mobile Venus on display in the Medicis fountain in Jardin du Luxembourg. Why we picked this (nose, har har): Without being all abstract and obviously modernist, the realistic face with its bright colors contrasts perfectly with the worn gray classical fountain.

Detroit Airport, Animated Fountain

Why we picked this: Airports are very modern places where few people complain about ultra modern architecture. This fountain manages to create shapes which compliment the smooth curves of the planes at the gates behind it. It is modernism without right angles.

World's largest Mentos and Coke Fountain

1500 students gathered in Belgium to create the worlds largest fountain made from exploding Coke and Mentos. Why we picked this: By having everyone dress in the same outfits, the effect of a fun, temporary activity becomes performance art and looks like a giant figurative fountains, when photographed.

Abstract Sculptural Fountain, Davisville
Why we picked this: Largely because it is an obscure quirky design, and it reminded us of the shapes of Japanese vinyl toy figures.

Kanazawa Station Fountain Clock
Why we picked this: In some ways this is a bit kitsch and gimmicky, but the idea is so perverse that it seems fun.

The WaterBoard

"A large, interactive installation that gives the user a chance to play with flowing water without getting wet. " This not a fountain, per se, but it takes the idea of touch screen interactive displays to the fun of playing with water.

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