Thanks to Jonathan Glancey who decided to do this project, we are able to bring you the most stunning designs and sparkling beauty of water features from Geneva to Osaka. Enjoy!
Versailles – Fountain of Apollo
Most do not know this, but the Palace of Versailles occupies 2,000 acres (8 sq km), which is more than twice the area that Manhattan’s Central Park occupies. Back in the day, Louis XIV considered himself as the Apollo of his time, which is why the finest of the fountains created for the palace gardens when revamped by André Le Nôtre from 1662 were inspired by the idea of the Roman sun god rising from the sea at dawn on his light-bringing ride across the heavens. This magnificent thing was designed by Charles Le Brun, and it is a true gem with its foaming horses, whales, and tritons blowing water from wreathed horns. It actually stands at the head of a mile-long canal that makes the palace gardens seem all but infinite.
Geneva – Jet d’Eau
This much-copied fountain and a symbol of the Swiss city never works in the freezing or windy days, and if you go to search this 1951 thing of beauty, all you will find is a plain 4 inch (10 cm) diameter nozzle. Yes, you read right, there is no bronze sea gods, no copper mermaids, just a nozzle that on a clear day without wind is capable of sending seven tons of water shooting 460 ft (140 m) into the Alpine sky at 120 MPH (200 KM/h). It is fed with millions of air bubbles which make the water gleams snow white, sparkling with rainbows when the sun shines through its sky-reaching plume. Sometimes, the simplest things really are the best.
Paris – Stravinsky Fountain
The Stravinsky Fountain found its place next to the Flamboyant Gothic 16th Century church of Saint-Merri. This fountain was described as a “superb monstrosity” by the playful French sculptor Jean Tinguely, and it is only one of seven new Parisian fountains that were commissioned by presidential decree in 1978. The design and the fashion in which this fountain is done somehow is reminiscent of themes from the works of the Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky who used the circus as a popular theme. For that reason, this charmingly surreal fountain is actually suitably clown-like.
Isfahan – Naqsh-e-Jahan Square
The huge public space in Isfahan, a great historical trading city in what is now Iran (only Beijing’s Tiananmen Square is bigger) was laid out to designs of Shaykh Bahai between 1602 and 1629 for Shah Abbas. It is flanked by the Shah’s sublime palace, two magnificent mosques and a gateway to the city’s grand bazaar, and it makes a remarkable meeting point for many trades, peoples, cultures and even religions. These magnificent fountains that make the place even better were added during the reign of the last Shah of Persia, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, deposed in 1979. Besides just looking beautiful they also come in handy on summer days when the temperature regularly rises to 35 C (95 F) and above.
Rockefeller Center, New York – Fountain of Prometheus
If you want to go ice-skating than the sunken plaza of the Rockefeller Center is one of those ‘must do’ experiences. When you get there, you will be watched over by the calm gaze of Prometheus which is there since 1934, the Ancient Greek Titan who brought fire from Mount Olympus to Earth to advance human civilization. He is in the guise of a gilded bronze Art Deco-style sculpture made by Paul Manship, flying across the plaza against a backdrop of red granite and accompanied by a chorus of water jets, standing at the foot of the RCA Tower, or ‘30 Rock, or the headquarters of NBC TV today.
Rome – Trevi Fountain
This fountain is 18th Century Roman Baroque confection representing the taming of the city’s waters under the watchful eye of Oceanus (Sea God bestriding a travertine oyster shell) and it attracts a sea of visitors. I myself had the honor of actually seeing it with my own eyes, and believe me not even one picture you will see does it any justice at all. It is believed that coins tossed into its generous basin will bring you good fortune and grant any wish. It was commissioned by Pope Clement XII in 1730, and its fanciful design with all Tritons, stampeding horses, wild rocks, Gods and Muses was the work of the architect Nicola Salvi. The re-designed Palazzo Poli was made to frame the fountain and give it more dramatic look. It also had featured in several films, one in particular – Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita where Anita Eckberg frolicked in its waters.
Kolkata – Fountain of Joy
Calcutta Electric Supply Company back in 1991 gave its generous gift in the form of a dancing musical fountain close by the Victoria Memorial in the city’s Maidan park. But it was soon denigrated by critics and denounced by protesters. Why? Well back then there were a lot of power cuts in the Indian city, and it was thought to be wasteful since so many of its poorest inhabitants had no electricity to light their homes let alone to play with. The fountain was abandoned after that, but thank to the change in urban mood in 2012 the sashaying fountain was re-opened. With its valves opening and closing 12 times a second, this joyous fountain dances to music, producing wave after wave of eye-boggling effects.
Peterhof, St Petersburg – Samson Fountain
On 27 June 1709 – St Samson’s Day – Peter the Great crushed the invading armies of Sweden’s King Charles XII at Poltava in Ukraine. The centerpiece of the Grand Cascade of 64 fountains stepping down from Peterhof, Tsar Peter’s palace, to the Baltic near St Petersburg along an arrow-straight canal is Francesco Rastrelli’s fountain crowned since 1802 with a gilded bronze sculpture of Samson wrestling a lion by Mikhail Kozlovsky. The lion symbolized Charles XII, while the Samson symbolized the victorious Russian tsar. In the 1940s, the German military wrecked the entire palace, and as the pinnacle, they stole the statue of Samson. Thankfully, Samson was replaced in 1947 by a replica made by Vasily Siminov. Restoration of the palace is still in progress, and according to some, the “new” Samson is now representing civilization’ triumph over brutality.
Hyde Park, London – Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
Designed by Kathryn Gustafson and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2004, this landscape fountain, despite mixed reviews back then, become increasingly popular over the past decade. Part of the bad reviews was thanks to some early -upon- opening injuries that occurred visitors slipped and hurt themselves on the fountain’s slippery, computer-crafted Cornish granite stones. After all the early on problems regarding this fountain were resolved Royal Parks tells visitors now to “please feel free to sit on the edge and refresh your feet.” Water cascading down the two sides of the large oval fountain smoothly on one side, rockily on the other truthfully reflects the Princess’s life.
Osaka – Floating Fountains
These modern fountains appear to float with no connection to ground or water over an artificial lake. This was a brilliant cinematic feat of artistic ingenuity, and clever plumbing dreamed up by the Californian sculptor and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi for Expo’ 70, the first World’s Fair to be hosted in Japan. The only time you can actually see the construction of these fountains is when they are not working. Water is pumped up to the sculpted floating fountains through vertical pipes invisible when the fountains flow. Happily, Noguchi’s artwork has remained long after the futuristic 1970 exhibition.