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Water forms
by Adeline Seidel
2/13/2015

For thousands of years spaces have been designed for and with water. Whether parks with ponds, waterfalls and other features, fountains on urban plazas, esplanades or private swimming pools, sauna or bathrooms are at stake, this clear, invigorating liquid flows and splashes, streams and whirls, roars, runs and trickles. Where water is controlled and not in excess, and occurs in environs not created by chance, it offers a fascinating experience for all senses.

On a large scale water is particularly impressive, and indeed its sheer force is capable of frightening us, while its course can take on grotesque dimensions. Take the open bell mouth spillway in the middle of Lake Berryessa, California which was produced by the construction of Monticello Dam. The round hole, also called “The Glory Hole” - almost gives the reservoir the look-and-feel of a “wash basin”. There is something surreal about it, yet you cannot help but watch this fascinating spectacle, when the water is sucked forcefully into the black hole, and you hear – from a safe distance – a guttural gurgling.

But what spaces are produced when water is the defining force? What forms does water create? To find out let’s travel to the state of Arizona in the United States and enter the Antelope Canyon. Having passed through the narrow entrance you encounter a unique world of bizarrely shaped, gently curving and sharp-edged sandstone formations, which look as if the flow of water over thousands of years had been transformed into stone. These are shapes that despite abundant efforts you will never find in architecture. The water, not to forget the wind, have carved this narrow yet up to 30 meter deep gorge out of the red sandstone.

For those who themselves design spaces it is not a matter of emulating the natural spaces formed by water or duplicating them one-to-one. Nevertheless all those tactile, visual, haptic and auditory properties of such “water-formed spaces” can provide inspiration. Otmar Grober, who calls himself a water engineer, water entertainer, water companion, likewise occupies himself with such spaces. He is considered the founder of instream river training, claiming that you can grasp streams and rivers as vibration elements, which are attuned to a landscape like musical instruments. But since landscape – the valleys, valley floors, sediments, the flaura and fauna – is in itself created by water it is ultimately the concertmaster. And he adds to explains that “personally, I am able to recognize 80 percent of the waters in my native area blindfolded – by their sound alone.”

Grober not only regards the landscape as a sound box for water and observes the landscapes shaped by water, he also transfers the principles to river regulation projects, for example, the impact of water groins. This refers not to animals but to large blocks of stone arranged on the river bed in a spiral formation, which serve to re-direct the flow of water and relieve pressure on the embankment areas. Or take pendular ramps, which occur quite naturally on the beds of streams that are full of loose stones and slow down the flow of water. They can be artificially created as a tool to relieve pressure on the banks when water levels rise. Simultaneously, they produce an extremely sensual rushing sound and a water surface that looks more lively, whiter and more irregular thanks to the swirls.

Swirls and whirls form lively water patterns that you can watch for long periods and sometimes awaken a childlike instinct to play. Do you remember how you sat in the bathtub having let out the water and watched the various toys bobbing along in the eddy of the ever faster swirling water? Axor has brought this vortex experience back visibly into the bathroom with “Starck V”, although here water is not sucked away, but rises up out of a fountain like a waterspout before flowing away through a transparent glass channel. A fair number of bathroom products experiment with such sensual experiences: shower heads that let water trickle down us like a summer rain shower or massage our skin using a powerful jet are almost standard in the high-price hotel segment. Then there are taps that let water flow over our hands either in a wide jet or in many individual drops. In the fittings area designers have taken a close look at the properties and sensual qualities of water. And in the bathroom, a wellness area but designed according to set standards, we are seeing a move towards defining a space for, with and through water – inspired just as much by nature as culture.

Spaces created by water: The Antelope Canyon. Photo ©© Wikipedia
The water, not to forget the wind, have carved out the red sandstone. Photo ©© Wikipedia
The open bell mouth spillway almost gives the reservoir the look-and-feel of a “wash basin”. Photo © iliketowastemytime.com
Yet you cannot help but watch this fascinating spectacle, when the water is sucked forcefully into the black hole. Photo © iliketowastemytime.com
you can grasp streams and rivers as vibration elements, which are attuned to a landscape like musical instruments. Foto from the Book "Von Wasser berührt. Das Hansgrohe Wassersymposium 2011"