Fountain Bowls, Urns for Urban Enjoyment

Published on August 31, 2021

water feature urns
Three days of hard but rewarding work culminated in this work of art.

The word “fountain” can mean many things to different people. Of course, the first image that springs to mind is a stylish water feature. Taking a moment to understand the history of fountains and their ongoing role in society allows us to effectively design a modern fountain that will remain relevant for years to come. 

As a water feature, a fountain can be grand, or it can be delicate. It can be a deluxe, dominating spectacle, like the wow-factor water features in Las Vegas (e.g., the Fountains of Bellagio). Alternatively, a fountain can be seen as the calming element of a botanical outdoor space to encourage mindfulness, complementing a Japanese Zen Garden, for example, with a koi fishpond and trickling decorative water feature.

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Today, a fountain can be described as a piece of architecture that allows water to travel from a source to a basin, a bowl or directly into the air either for drinking purposes or a decorative effect. There are just so many beautiful variations of fountains that we couldn’t possibly cover them all! An excellent place to start understanding more about fountains and their adaptability is to explore their fascinating history.

The project is shown before our new installation. All the materials for this job (the demolition and construction) had to be carried by hand through marble-tiled hallways.

The world’s first examples of fountains can be found in ancient Mesopotamia around 5,000 years ago (3000 B.C.). Making use of a natural spring, water poured from the source into a series of man-made basins designed for drinking water and washing. Examples of ancient fountains can also be found in Greek and Roman archaeological remains, with bronze and stone masks of animals and heroes.

There’s no doubt that water has played an essential role in human history, but fountain technology is of extremely high value, as it allows the use of aquatic technology to shape and play with water to suit our needs. Fountain builders have been celebrated throughout history.

In the mid to late 16th century, fountains were considered a stop on the path to illumination, forging a new career known as hydromechanics, or fontanini in Italy. These fountain builders were employed to create special effects using a combination of water and gravity; however, they were also entrusted with the vital task of supplying clean drinking water to towns and cities.

The pond industry has grown exponentially since I started Anything Wet about 17 years ago. People want tranquil features to soothe the soul and recharge the batteries of life. We offer our clients a holistic approach, allowing them to feel closer to nature while working with their vision and the practicalities of construction.

Preparation is the key to success.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anything Wet was asked to build a fountainscape in Ashfield, Sydney (Australia). The scope was to remove the old feature and create a magical fountainscape using bowls and urns. These types of urn and bowl water features are very popular. They give you all the sights and sounds of a water feature, but with minimal up-front cost and maintenance. Urn and bowl water features are super easy to install and don’t require any mechanical knowledge or special tools.

This is one of the first fountainscapes in Australia, to our knowledge. The build was quite problematic, as it was in a courtyard inside a large apartment block in the city. The logistics of having materials delivered and the use of machinery made for an interesting challenge, requiring some creative problem solving from our team. 

Building Specs

We staged the features prior to installation to check spacing, splash distances and aesthetics.

After demolishing the old feature, the pond basin was lined using EPDM Firestone rubber liner.

We then created a false floor using AquaBlox, which allowed us to build the water features up on a stable surface and still have a large volume of water available. We installed a high-quality controllable-speed pump, which allows the features to be turned down on windy days. A non-return check valve was also added to create an easy-to-use, professional setup. We installed five stacked slate urn water features and two spillway bowls at different heights and facing different directions to make the feature enjoyable from any angle.

Due to the number of urns and bowls installed, we had to be creative with the plumbing to maximize each feature and make it as efficient as possible. We created a custom plumbing manifold to feed the water into each feature, with a valve to adjust each one individually. The pump is located within a vault to make it easy to access for servicing. We like to provide easy care options on our builds to make the feature more enjoyable; no one wants to spend hours maintaining when you could just be enjoying it! 

As such, we also installed an auto-fill, top-up unit to provide peace of mind and minimize any damage to the equipment. We used natural materials to make the fountainscape more aesthetically pleasing and to look more natural. Pebbles and rocks were used to cover any exposed AquaBlox and make the fountains blend in. 

The use of plants, both water and terrestrial, softens the feature and makes it sit more naturally in its environment. Lights were installed to make the fountainscape come to life after dark and provide an area to be enjoyed for all hours of the day. Because we were working in an apartment block during lockdown, we had many residents actively engaged in the building process and eagerly awaiting the project’s completion. 

Fountain of Truth

To say the residents were ecstatic with the fountainscape would be an understatement! Multiple residents approached our team and expressed how happy they were with the building’s newest amenity.

Trying to plumb an 80-mm manifold (bottom) and seven 40-mm lines into only 1 square meter of space isn’t as easy as you might think!

Clearly, these types of urn and bowl water features are very popular. They give you all the sights and sounds of a water feature, but with minimal up-front cost and maintenance. Urn and bowl water features are super easy to install and don’t require any mechanical knowledge or special tools.

We at Anything Wet always complete our work to the highest standard possible. Client feedback means everything to us. We love leaving a job knowing we have made people happy. During times of high stress, like many of us have felt during the global pandemic, water can promote calmness and focus. 

Wallace J. Nichols talks about a state of Blue Mind, describing it as “the calm, peacefulness and a general sense of happiness and satisfaction with life within the moment.” He suggests that being close to and mindful of bodies of water help you gain the benefits of the Blue Mind. Ponds, water features, pondless waterfalls and fountains all provide a space for our brains to experience empathy, positive emotions and self-awareness — the building blocks of happiness!

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