A Life Force

The adventure of designing with water has a wonderful history and continues to evolve on several fronts in response to awareness, technology and design discovery while water’s humanistic impressions remain as direct, heartfelt, and relevant as ever.

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, 1651, 
Gian Lorenzo Bernini

We build water features to express water’s availability to us and to celebrate the life it supports. The human spirit is a great and sensitive thing, and water expression ties directly into that realm of experience.

left: Small drinking fountain / right: Fountain at Gardens of Versailles


Our eyes are amazing tools but they are not automatic. We must value them and always be training them to learn to see as alertly, honestly and completely as possible. Our eyes are central to how we develop opinions about what is good and what is not.

left: Baptism of Christ, 1475, Leonardo da Vinci / right: Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1971, David Hockney

Leonardo Da Vinci was celebrated for his sympathetic and accurate vision, but he didn’t see water well, even though he tried. His Baptism of Christ is contrasted here with a David Hockney whose mastery of reflection, refraction, motion, and color is triumphant.

Fountain Place Dallas, Texas


Seeing leads to Significance. Some water expressions are significant while others are not. Our opinions help us identify water’s ‘magical’ effect — identifying those things that are visually or emotionally remarkable, or by what level of necessary detail form them to become good.

Anatomy of a Fountain


Great water features are anatomically organized into synergetic systems of water display, where each element interacts meaningfully with each other. All expressions are of significant quality, functioning together in harmony. It is from this synergetic complexity that water design becomes rich, efficient, and alive.

The axis plays against the site's orientation

Water Idea

Seeing, Significance and Anatomy are the foundations in the creation of a water idea — a central, driving concept, based in the craft of water. Because water ideas get to the very core of an installation's expressive potential, they are inherently efficient, and can be of extraordinary importance in sustainable design.

If water features are about life, then they must be about creation and creativity. And, as in any artistic endeavor, it is important to avoid not only a waste of resources, but also the deadly and stale commoditization of uninspired copies.