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Thread: Is a water feature a must?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Is a water feature a must?

    This section has been inactive lately (might be my fault). So I thought I would start a new thread.

    I was always taught that when designing places (parks, meeting places, civic places) that a water feature is a must. For example, design around the waterfront, a fountain in the park, a waterfall feature in a civic place, etc.

    There is a great attraction for people toward water, and the sound of water. Many planning/design theorists have also proclaimed water a necessity. So, this thread is about whether a water feature is a must when designing a public place, and if so, what is it that attracts us to water and water sounds (not recreational water per say, like boating).
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  2. #2
    In a word, no.

    We completed a neighborhood park several years ago and proposed several different types of water features and the neighbors flat-out refused any and all of them. Indeed, the reception to the idea of water features was brutally opposed by most residents.

    In several other parks, our park department is actually removing such features as spray pools because no one uses them and they are a maintenance headache.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    While it seems fairly obvious that a 'water feature' is not a necessity (think of all the popular / successful 'places' that do not feature one), I must say I found the tone of gendunker's comments a bit depressing.

    Here in London, those water features that are well maintained (and I would submit that a municipality that cannot even maintain a few fountains is FUBAR) are quite popular and those 'splash' pavements are mega popular with kids as soon as temperature 'soar' above 59F.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  4. #4
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Flying Monkeys View post
    This section has been inactive lately (might be my fault). So I thought I would start a new thread.

    I was always taught that when designing places (parks, meeting places, civic places) that a water feature is a must. For example, design around the waterfront, a fountain in the park, a waterfall feature in a civic place, etc.

    There is a great attraction for people toward water, and the sound of water. Many planning/design theorists have also proclaimed water a necessity. So, this thread is about whether a water feature is a must when designing a public place, and if so, what is it that attracts us to water and water sounds (not recreational water per say, like boating).
    Water features are a must in Florida because of the flat, deforested landscape and the relentless heat. Unfortunately they are usually designed as gated community amenities rather than as public space. But I think water features are uncommon in colder climates for the most part.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Here in the arid West, where "whiskey is for drinkin' and water is for fightin' over", water features aren't a necessity for a public place. That said, though, I personally like them. Our Great Northern Center has a water feature inspied by the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial - a scaled down version of the Great Falls of the Missouri - which I enjoy watching when I am inthe area (which is most everyday). It only runs about half the year but the sound and the aesthetics are most pleasing.

    I love Helena but its biggest drawback is that a river does not run through it.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I think water features are uncommon in colder climates for the most part.
    I disagree with that. One, retention ponds/detention ponds (wet and dry) serve a dual purpose to both direct stormwater overflow and as a marketing move for the developer. I think these are found in my climates throughout North America, including the midwest.

    Water features are just one of many types of features that can add diversity to a site. Placement of buildings to each other, architectural variations (major and minor), placement of landscaping, decorative fencing, berms, courtyards, etc. all help to create a unique environment.

    Personally, if you have to have a stormwater basin make it look natural. The high-water line (HWL) of the pond does not have to be shaped like a triangle or a rectangle but can imitate a natural shoreline. Use native plantings and arrange plants in natural clusters, as well as using best management practices (BMP's). Avoid using stone with Kentucky bluegrass and Canadian geese decoys. We all know it's a stormwater basin but that doesnt meen it needs to look horrid.

    On the otherhand, if you don't want to use a stormwater basin, you can incorporate rain gardens within the yards (front, side, and rear) for stormwater features. Again, the use of native plantings is encouraged.

  7. #7

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    There's a section in William Whyte's book CITY that talks about water features, as I recall. It's a good book on public space.

    Me, I like water features, but they aren't the be-all and end all, especially if they aren't well suited to the local environment. Personally, I'd like to see more kinentic art features in public areas.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DPP View post
    There's a section in William Whyte's book CITY that talks about water features, as I recall. It's a good book on public space.
    Whyte was exactly who I was thinking of.

    I like water features. There is a centering that occurs in a public space when there is a water feature. But does it have to be a water feature? No, kinetic art, stationary sculpture can center a place. But water gives you more of that natural movement, natural sound.

    This is a little more recreational, but I love those parks with the water stuff for kids, you know the geysers shooting out of the ground at different times and stuff. But what kid does not gravitate toward the fountain feature and want to throw coins in it?

    How about a pic of your fav public place that has some feature?
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    While it seems fairly obvious that a 'water feature' is not a necessity (think of all the popular / successful 'places' that do not feature one), I must say I found the tone of gendunker's comments a bit depressing.
    Welcome to my private he!!. Here, we believe that public safety should be funded to the tune of 90% of the local budget and the rest will just have to make do.

    But, to be fair in the case I cited, a good many of the neighbors were older or without kids, so providing an amenity for children wasn't high on their list of priorities. The other part of it is that our parks budget is the lowest of any similar city in this state and with few resources, it is necessary to prioritize. The sprinkler just didn't have any advocates and was thus eliminated as an austerity measure.

    Personally, I like them and find that they add vitality and a sense of place. I also agree with DPP -- kinetic public art can be really cool.

  10. #10
    In Kansas City, it needs to be...

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    I disagree with that. One, retention ponds/detention ponds (wet and dry) serve a dual purpose to both direct stormwater overflow and as a marketing move for the developer. I think these are found in my climates throughout North America, including the midwest.
    Marketing feature for the developer? Are you kidding? They are a nusiance attracting non-migratory geese, and most folks around here hate them as they are a hazzard for small children playing. A while back we had two young boys down in a pond and ever since, no one wants them near them.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    One of the parks here built a fountain a few years ago and has been highly successful as a gathering spot.
    Local Article
    A lot of care was taken to make sure it was safe to play on, not slippery, and no pooling water.
    We wanted to design and build something that was interactive and required little maintenance. It also had to be self-draining, without a pool of water standing,
    The fountain is self-filling and all water is recycled and chemically treated. The structure is designed to be as vandal proof as possible. Anything requiring maintenance is accessible.

    Here's the girls playing on the fountain, she is climbing the fountain on the right, you can see the grate where the water drains. It really is safe.
    Last edited by noottamevas; 11 Apr 2007 at 9:17 PM.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Jess's avatar
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    We always have rains althroughout the year, it's natural and maintenance free, so no need for it. Detention pond, maybe it works. However, water feature is just an option for indoor malls, hotels, and the like.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    My son can easily spend 1/2 hr in utter fascination given a fountain.

    Sorry to hear about your sitch, Gedunker. Perhaps the only thing I didn't like about people during my long, othwerwise very enjoyable stay in the Midwest was the prosaic attitude to life... a bit TOO practical.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Some examples....

    1) Water feature in Sidney (I really like this design, the swirl and it reminds me of the DC reflecting pool. Maybe an Aussie Cyburbian can give us a history)
    2) The kids stuff I mentioned
    3) Jacksonville, FL water feature at night. (I have lunch here a time or two when in Jaxs)
    4) Long shot of Jaxs Downtown Park where the fountain is located.

    I really like the Jaxs one because of the fountain and the St. Johns River, water, water everywhere.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails WATER1_SIDNEY1.jpg   water2_kids2.jpg  

    water4_jaxs.jpg   water5_jaxs.jpg  

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  16. #16
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    In some cases I would recommend against a water feature and suggest public art. Water features are expensive to construct and maintain, are subject to vandalism and can be seasonal limited.

    I think that public art, sculptures, and other similar items will provide for a designated focal point. Personally I am a big fan of ornate towers with clocks.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  17. #17
    My college town recently redesigned its downtown plaza and installed an interactive water feature that recycles the water. It was a big hit with the community in general and the kids in particular. Not long after it opened, a local paper did a story about how the water had become contaminated and the city was forced to shut it down and take further action to render it safe. Apparently it's a fairly common issue with these kind of fountains, so that's something to consider.

    From a purely aesthetic POV, I love fountains. Once you factor in vandalism (soaping), safety, and waste, it becomes more complex.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I design wet ponds all the time. Because of the standing water, you need to add an aerator, ala a water feature.

    Alot of the "entrance features" you see in communities are in fact SWM facilities.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally posted by Square&Compass View post
    My college town recently redesigned its downtown plaza and installed an interactive water feature that recycles the water. It was a big hit with the community in general and the kids in particular. Not long after it opened, a local paper did a story about how the water had become contaminated and the city was forced to shut it down and take further action to render it safe. Apparently it's a fairly common issue with these kind of fountains, so that's something to consider.

    From a purely aesthetic POV, I love fountains. Once you factor in vandalism (soaping), safety, and waste, it becomes more complex.
    The water feature on Louisville's waterfront park had the same problem -- kids found it was perfect for playing in the water, but sanitary issues became a concern. To try to keep kids out of it, they posted signs that warned of high amounts of hydrogen.

    Folks were not amused and the signs quickly came down.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    My kids really like this kind.



    I you put a filter at the endfo the recycle slit that shoudl take care of basic impurities, non? Also not standing/stagnant/drowning hazard water
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  21. #21
    nvm, I see I already posted

    Moderator note:
    If you don't have anything to add to the thread, don't bother to post-pad, either. ~Gedunker



    Last edited by Gedunker; 20 Sep 2007 at 10:22 AM.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Jen's avatar
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    Apparently it is a must for one builder of a vacant office building. IT has been vacant for oh about 6 months, Just today I notied two huge concrete balls and pillars at the entrance and then there it was, a huge fountain in the middle of the drive.

    I'm thinking since it is set back tween the new Autozone andn drive thru Starbucks this building needed a catch, a hook something to draw in the eye to the back of that lot. The fountain looks a little out of place in the middle of the strip zone, but it may work out for the builder/developer.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    It is hard to find an ugly water feature.

    It is easy to find ugly art.

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