The Connection Between Water and Design

The relationship between water and architectural design is fascinating and multifaceted. From ancient Roman baths to contemporary spa experiences, water plays a crucial role in architectural design and well-being. The significance of water in architecture goes beyond its basic cleansing function.

Water is essential for human life. It constitutes approximately 70% of our bodies and plays a vital role in physiological functions, including temperature regulation and vital cellular processes. It influences our well-being and comfort. Architects use water features to create a sense of calm, balance, and harmony.

Water also holds deep cultural and spiritual significance. Across diverse cultures and centuries, it symbolizes purification, renewal, and spiritual rebirth. Rituals and ceremonies often involve water, emphasizing its transformative power.

Architects have long recognized water’s impact on design. Here are some ways it is integrated:

  • Thermal Comfort: Water features can regulate temperature and create a pleasant environment.
  • Blurring Boundaries: Water dissolves the distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces, connecting them seamlessly.
  • Aesthetics: Water elements enhance visual appeal, making spaces more inviting.
  • Environmentally Friendly Design: Sustainable water use is crucial for eco-friendly architecture.

One man who recognized and explored the use of water inside the home was Dornbracht. He was a German manufacturer known for his high-quality bathroom and kitchen accessories. His product, Aquahalo, is a sculptural shower resembling a crystal chandelier. It integrates light and water into the ceiling fixture. When turned on, it lets loose a cascade of water creating a moment of meditative bliss in everyday life. Inspired by Gustavian style, Aquahalo combines aesthetics with functionality, reflecting the shine of lead crystals and the fluidity of water.

Water has also been a powerful symbol in architecture across culture and time periods. From reflecting pools in front of grand buildings to serene fountains in courtyards, water evokes emotions and adds beauty to space.

Fountains are captivating focal points in architectural design. Their rhythmic flow of water creates a soothing ambiance, inviting people to pause, reflect, and appreciate the surroundings. In public plazas, parks, or courtyards, fountains serve as gathering spots. The sound of water masks urban noise, providing a serene oasis. Residential fountains are also popular and add elegance and charm. They enhance outdoor living spaces, making them more inviting.

Reflecting pools enhance symmetry in design. When placed in front of a building they create a visual balance. These shallow pools mirror the sky, nearby structures, and surrounding greenery. Their stillness evokes calmness and contemplation. Reflecting pools often accompany monuments or memorials. Reflection symbolizes memory and continuity.

These water sources are also popular with the public:

  • Indoor Fountains: Architects incorporate indoor fountains in commercial spaces, hotels, and lobbies. These create a memorable first impression and improve indoor air quality through natural humidity.
  • Courtyard Fountains: In enclosed courtyards, fountains become focal points. They enhance spatial quality and encourage social interaction.
  • Water Walls: Architectural water walls- vertical surfaces with water flowing down combine aesthetics and functionality. They function as natural room dividers and provide acoustic insulation.

A special memorial with a water feature is the 9/11 Memorial located in New York City. Some of the details about the water feature at the memorial:

1. Design and Concept:

  • The memorial was designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker.
  • Their winning design called “Reflecting Absence” features twin waterfall pools set within the footprints of the former North and South Towers of the World Trade Center.
  • The pools are surrounded by bronze parapets that list the names of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
  • More than 400 swamp white oak trees grow in the plaza surrounding the pools.

2. Waterfall Pools:

  • Each pool is nearly an acre in size, making them the largest manmade waterfalls in North America.
  • The waterfalls cascade 30 feet into square basins.
  • From there, the water drops another 20 feet into smaller, central voids.
  • According to the architect, Michael Arad, the pools represent “absence made visible.”
  • The sound of the cascading water creates a tranquil and contemplative space separate from the city’s bustling noises.

The water feature of the 9/11 Memorial serves as a powerful tribute to the lives lost and a place for reflection and healing. The water features symbolize both absence and resilience, inviting visitors to remember and honor those affected by the events of that fateful day.

The architect also recognizes the practical, functional roles of water. Temperature (through evaporative cooling), providing irrigation for green spaces, and a fire suppression system to name a few. Architects integrate water management systems into their designs, and they are focused on sustainable practices. They explore how water-efficient landscaping, permeable surfaces, and innovative water filtration systems contribute to eco-friendly design. As you can see, water has both an aesthetic and symbolic significance in architecture.

At Scarano Architect, PLLC we understand how important the use of water features can be in a design. Many of our clients request an element of peace and tranquility in their design. With the stressors of living in the modern world, incorporating a water feature into home design can be a positive step. If you would like to see some of our award-winning designs, please check our website. Call us at 718-222-0322 for all your architectural needs.


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