I love urban plazas where water jets through an array of holes at ground level, creating fountains and arcs at random. Watching kids run and play in the midst of these unpredictable showers brings a smile. It’s also a creative way to cool off. Down in Texas, where it always seems to be hot, they’ve created an entire garden of water, where you can get your feet wet in all sorts of ways. Welcome to Fort Worth’s Water Gardens.
Maybe you don’t think of an outdoor venue as “architecture” but the fact is you don’t need walls and a ceiling to define space. The Water Gardens are a perfect example. This city block oasis pops up (er, down), unexpectedly as you pass through the urban grid of Fort Worth. Most of the park is hidden below street level but you can’t miss the rising mist and symphony of moving water. It’s a celebration of sorts, urging you to join in on the fun. The few photos I share here don’t begin to do it justice.
The Water Gardens challenge my logical brain because there’s no rhyme or reason to their haphazard design. Maybe that’s the point. Wander, gaze, and “soak in” their five acres. The Gardens are a multi-faceted experience of water. Phillip Johnson (one of America’s foremost architects), and John Burgee (a graduate of my own university) designed the Water Gardens to include “… pathways, wayside stops, events, and hideaways to draw out the experience, to convey more of the sense of a Central Park… than its limited acreage would’ve suggested possible.” That may be saying a lot about a little, but consider the Gardens’ offerings:
The “Quiet Pool” sits at the base of twenty-foot walls. Water descends almost silently down the stone from a trough above. Deep in the Gardens by the pool itself, you’re so far below ground level it’s as if the city has somehow been relocated far, far away.
The “Aerated Pool” is a nod to the water jets I mentioned above. Forty nozzles create an “orchard” of water in this smaller pool, the tops of the “trees” reaching back to the ground level of the city above.
The “Mountain” is a series of stepped concrete terraces, descending to a corner of the park removed from the water elements. Sitting on the Mountain is almost like being blindfolded. You can hear the rush of the Water Gardens nearby; you just can’t see them.
The “Active Pool” is the largest and most distinctive feature of the Water Gardens, literally a canyon through which the water streams and falls, terminating in a pool thirty-eight feet below the ground. A series of open steps dares you to descend through the water from top to bottom (check out this video for a sense of the experience). The Active Pool gained notoriety in the final scene of the movie Logan’s Run, as the inhabitants of the dystopian city climb into the outdoors for the very first time.
The major elements of the Water Gardens are tied together by a central plaza, where you can experience everything from one location. But to do so would betray the Gardens’ intent. They’re meant to be a moving experience, much as the water itself rushes, mists, and pools throughout.
Architecture is structured, while landscape is unstructured. Blend the two and the result can be unlike anything you’ve seen before. The Water Gardens beckon you to escape, to wander, to contemplate, and most importantly, to get your feet wet. Will you accept their invitation?
Now for the latest on LEGO Fallingwater…
LEGO Fallingwater – Update #2 (Read how this project started in Perfect Harmony)
The instruction manual for LEGO Fallingwater includes about ninety pages for the assembly, so I figured I’d divide the build into nine equal parts. In the spirit of today’s topic, I proceeded to “dive in”.
Heaven help me.
You see, the 3,000+ pieces of the LEGO Grand Piano were separated into twenty-one numbered bags. Build one bag at a time – easy-peasy. On the other hand, the 800+ pieces of the LEGO Fallingwater model are separated arbitrarily into nine bags, with no indication of what piece is where. It’s like opening a jigsaw puzzle and realizing every piece looks almost exactly the same.
I took a photo of my desk so you could see how much chaos I created on my first day. Did I open all nine bags in search of pieces? Yes, I did. Did I consider just dumping all of the pieces into a big pile so I could search in one place? Yes (but I was afraid there was good reason they’re separated into nine bags). Did I build part of the model wrong and have to backtrack? Absolutely (and thank goodness for that little orange wrench you see next to the scissors. It came with the LEGO Grand Piano and unsnaps pieces that are snapped together incorrectly).
Ten pages (or 11%, or 49 minutes) into the build, this is what we have. We’re looking at Fallingwater from the same angle as the photo above, only all we’ve got is the lowest perimeter foundation wall and a spill of waterfall and creek emerging from the front corner. Not very exciting. Tune in next Thursday as the construction continues. Now for another nod to Frank Lloyd Wright…
Romeo and Juliet Windmill
For all of his famous residential and commercial projects, Frank Lloyd Wright had plenty of lesser-known designs, such as the Romeo and Juliet Windmill in Wyoming, WI. The tower was commissioned by Wright’s aunts, to pump water to a nearby school where they taught. You might describe its shingle-clad look as quaint but in fact, the design is intentional. The taller piece in the rear (“Romeo”) serves as structural support to counter the prevailing winds of the area. Romeo also contains the mechanics of the windmill and water pump. The cupola-topped octagonal piece in front (“Juliet”) is largely ornamental and softens the look of the tower when observed from further down the hillside. Neither part of the tower can really stand on its own, hence the name “Romeo and Juliet”.