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Balinese Street Fountains

( I wrote this article for the blog Water in the City (WITC) in 2010. WITC no longer exists so I wanted to re-post it.)

On my recent trip to Bali, Indonesia I fell in love with the quirky street fountains and water gardens. Often small and in front of shops, the water features are usually home made but have ambitious design concepts. The features alone are small, but taken together as a street scape you feel as though you are walking through a much larger urban water garden.

This is a micro water garden in front of a nail salon in Kuta where they do fish tank pedicures. Water bubbles out of the two tiny rectangular plinths. Notice how they extended the geometry of their water garden with the paving. The whole garden is less than 1.5m square.

A small sculptural fountain built into the sidewalk in front of a shop. The fountain is only about 1m high. In the US we would probably think of this as a residential or large table top fountain but here it is built into the street scape which gives it a greater sense of monumentality.

This fountain with an overflowing vessel is located in front of a fine textile dealer in Ubud. The sound of water fountains can be heard on many Balinese streets.

A spiggot on the fountain let’s them water the grass and other plants in their front courtyard directly from the fountain.

PVC pipe and a garden hose create a pretty ambitious water wall on the front windows of this massage parlor.

A large ceramic vessel overflowing with water sits in a nook between building along a major street in downtown Ubud. The water was a little bit funky, but the display of water running off the lip of the vessel was gorgeous and surprising regular. The strong sound of the water curtain could be heard from two store fronts away.

Bali is criss-crossed with channels of all sizes, many larger than small runnel in a shopping district.  Intended for irrigation and drainage, this channel has been transformed into a water feature with the addition of a stone sculpture of a woman (with a vessel) at the water’s edge and the adjacent seating area.

Located 1/2 a block from Kuta Beach, along the sidewalk at the south edge of the Hard Rock Cafe Hotel, this feature combines large architectural water walls,  rain curtains and geysers. Ambitious in scale, this feature becomes a focal point for the whole block and creates a small public space as people gather in front of it.

I love the strong connection between water and vegetation in the fountains in Bali. Almost every time a water element is present there are plants flourishing nearby. Often times, in the United States I feel that we forget to include (or intentionally exclude) plants in large scale water feature designs.

July 15, 2012 0
See more: fountains, landscape & garden, on the road, water

Our smart irrigation system

My new favorite party trick is to pull out my iPhone, and use it to turn on the irrigation for my new lemon tree. The crazy thing is that I can do this even if I am 5000 miles from home. Admittedly I am kind of showing off, because the irrigation schedule is automated, and I don’t need to fuss with it. The tree is already getting all the water it needs.

We run a Smart Home automation system in our 1907 Craftsman. Meaning that we can control and program most of the lights, switches, locks, fans, heating, video cameras, security systems, cooling, weather station(!), etc. remotely. My geeky network engineer husband is responsible for getting us into the world of home automation. We started with light switches about 4 years ago and slowly added more automation to the house and other buildings on the property. So when we decided to redo the landscape in the front yard we knew we should add the irrigation to our Smart Home system.

The drip irrigation valves we used are DIG Irrigation DM075 Automatic Valve Assembly for Drip System.  They are discontinues at Home Depot, but you can buy them online at Smart Home and Amazon. They are pretty cheap (approx. $25.00 each) and we have had good luck with them. The green irrigation boxes (that protect the valves) are from Home Depot.

The (4) valves (above) control my fruit trees, shrubs, raised beds (with edibles) in the west side of my front yard. + Soon I hope to have one of them controlling the drip on my (6) hanging baskets on the porch.

This irrigation box (above) is in my pumpkin/squash patch that I call the “farm”. One valve controls water in the farm and a second controls shrubs on the lower terrace.

For now (2) additional pipes are capped off (white caps in photo above). Eventually they will be used to run drip under my small lawn. But we are not going to replace the lawn until all the other major construction is finished. It seemed like it would be a good idea to run the extra copper pipes now, so that we would have some expansion room when we need it.

Here is Jonathan (my husband) helping me test and adjust the new irrigation system.

We are using a SimpleHomeNet EZFlora #5010A to run the valves in the front yard. We also bought a second one to run the valves in out backyard. It is compatible with INSTEON or any X10 controller.  If you are not already running some time of Central Automation Controller (to control your whole house) you will need to get one. See Smart Home for more info.

The irrigation controller is located under our porch. We had our contractor mount a piece of plywood to the wall, and then a water tight box I bought on Amazon. The electrician installed 2 outlets inside the box. So all we had to do was plug in the two devices and connect the low voltage wires that lead out to the valves in the yard. We had to make a little diagram so we knew which wire led to which valve. Since there were only 6 new valves it was easy. We also added our old sprinkler heads for our lawn to the new smart controller.

We got the system up and running very quickly. There were a couple of leaky connections that I had to call my plumber back out to fix. But for the most part everything worked as expected.

After you get the valves working you need to run drip line (tubing) to the plants. I’ll cover how to do that in a separate post. In the meanwhile, here is a link to another post where I talk about drip in raised beds. The basics are the same.

Anyway, it was such a relief to get the drip working! It’s great to know that when I am busy or out of town the garden is getting watered properly.

Want more technical info on setting up smart irrigation system?
Allen Glen wrote a great series on blog posts on setting up a smart irrigation control system. We read his posts before we sat down to design our system and it made it a lot easier. Check them out:


May 15, 2012 0
See more: BREAKurban, landscape & garden, water

Confluence Park, Los Angeles

Confluence Park recently opened in Los Angeles at the corner of N. San Fernando Road and N. Figueroa Street.

The project is a collaboration between Mia Lehrer + Associates and WET Design. The linear interactive water feature is meant to represents the Los Angeles River where it meets up with the historic Arroyo Secco. Come check it out. It is right next to Home Depot under the highway.

LINK: Watch Video of Confluence Park fountain

March 18, 2011 0
See more: fountains, water

Top 7 Favorite Fountains

There are a few hundred “famous fountains” that have transcended being local landmarks and have become part of our global pop culture. They are on the covers of travel books, in movies, people make pilgrimages to them, their symbolism is often key to the branding of their cities. Some of the fountains are big and some are small. Some are high tech computerized water expressions, and some are not. As a landscape and water feature designer, I have often wondered which fountains are the most favored, and why. So I created an online survey, to simply ask people, “What is your favorite fountain?”.

Detail of the survey: I posted a link to the online survey on Facebook and on a number of industry related forums on LinkedIn and Land8Lounge.  To my delight I got a number of responses (80+), but not everyone actually took the official survey. I received additional responses to the first question, “What is your favorite fountain?” via Tweets, emails, Facebook, etc. The question also sparked some lively discussions in several of the online forums. The survey was open to the public, but because of the places I posted it, the majority of the respondents were landscape architects, urban planners, architects and people in the water feature industry. I admit this is not the most scientific study, but I hope people find the results interesting and that it continues to generate a dialogue.

The drum roll please… here are the most favorite:


Location: Charleston, VA | Designer: Stuart O. Dawson,  Sasaki Associates with Edward Pinckney Associates | Year: 1990


Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Survey Comments:

  • “The pineapple represents the southern symbol of hospitality.” – survey response


Waterfront Park Charleston


Location: Irving, Texas | Designer: Robert Glen with SWA | Year: 1976-1984


Mustangs of Las Colinas

#05: The Dubai Fountain, Burj Khalifa

Location: Dubai, UAE | Designer: Andrea Silva, WET Design | Date: 2009


Survey Comments:

For sheer power and size, I’d go for the Dubai Fountain. It’s akin to three Bellagio’s side by side. And you can feel the throb (or is it a boom) every time it shoots its highest pulse/stream.” – R.F. Land8 forum

“The Burj fountain. Its dramatic movements, sounds, and powerful song selection gives a person chills when they watch it….. and its absolutely unforgettable!” – J.M. LinkedIn Fountain Design forum


The Dubai Fountain – Wikipedia

#04: Fort Worth Water Gardens, Fort Worth, Texas

Location: Fort Worth Convention Center | Designer: Phillip Johnson and John Burgee | Date: 1974



Fort Worth Water Garden – Wikipedia

#03: Paley Park, NYC

Location: Midtown Manhattan | Designer: Zion & Breene -  Landscape Architects | Date: 1967


Survey Comments:
This feature got a number of votes but no one commented on why they voted for it. I would speculate that people are primarily drawn to the sound of the water wall in Paley Park. What do you think?


Paley Park – Wikipedia

Paley Park – Yelp review

#02: The Fountains of the Bellagio

Location: Las Vegas | Designer: Claire Kahn Tuttle, WET Design | Date: 1997


Survey Comments:

Probably the one at the Bellagio. Yeah, I know I’m supposed to scoff at it as a landscape architect, but I love how it works!” – survey response


Fountains of the Bellagio – Wiki

Fountains of the Bellagio – Yelp

#01: Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain, Levi Plaza

Location: Portland. Oregon | Designer: Angela Danadjieva, Lawrence Halprin & Associates  | Date: 1970


Survey Comments:

The Lawerence Halprin fountain at Levi’s Plaza in San Francisco, for the look, sense of discovery it fosters, and especially the sound.” – L.R. LinkedIn ASLA forum

I’m a pretty big fan of Halprins ‘fountains’/water features. Too bad we really cant design places like those anymore thanks to initiatives like CPTED…d’oh!..forgot this is a fountains discussion.” – N. A. Land8 forum


Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain – Wikipedia

Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain >>

Thoughts + Observations

Historic Water Features:
I was surprised that all the top favorite fountains were under 45 years old. There were a number of historic fountains, such as Trevi, Villa d’Este, and Buckingham Fountain that received a few votes. But collectively they did not rank very high on the survey. Considering how well known and venerated they seem to be, I found it a bit surprising. It makes me want to investigate how people relate to historic water features in modern cities and how they may function differently as they get older.

Sculptural Fountains:
The Pineapple Fountain and the Mustangs of Las Colinas illustrate that sculptural water features continue to be popular with the public and highly iconic. I wasn’t personally familiar with the Pineapple Fountain before this survey. A Google search for the Pineapple Fountain brought up a surprising number of artist paintings depicting the fountain. You can even buy bookmarks depicting the Pineapple Fountain on Etsy. The symbolism of sculptural fountains is often regional, as is the case in both of these fountains.

Show Features:
No big surprise here. The results of the survey confirm that people love huge musical water features. The Fountains of the Bellagio and the Dubai Fountain got high points for their emotional impact, scale and strength. They offer a unique collective experience on a large scale. Sometimes criticized for using a lot of water, these fountains are a guilty pleasure for many people. I loved the comment from the landscape architect who said that he knows that he shouldn’t like the Fountains of the Bellagio but that he does anyway.

Also noteworthy, is that the Dubai Fountain is less than a year old and already ranked in the top 7. I have a hunch that only a huge musical fountain could enter our collective consciousness and become an international favorite so quickly.

Going into this, I wondered if one of the huge musical features would get the most votes. The answer was no. Remarkably a gravity fed waterscape in Portland got more votes than any other fountain in the world.  Admittedly a knock-out water feature, the Forecourt Fountain was described in 1970, as “One of the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance”.  Forecourt Fountain and the Fort Worth Water Garden, offer highly immersive, interactive experiences that are abstractions of how water works in the natural world. Waterscapes aren’t fountains to look at, but rather offer watery places to be.

The fact that Forecourt got so many votes indicates that an immersive experience can have the same kind of draw and fame as an iconic water feature. This should be encouraging to people trying to bring these types of experiences to their cities and projects. The challenge, as several people pointed out, is that it would be very difficult to build a water feature like Forecourt Fountain today due to safety and litigation concerns. Notably, the Fort Worth Water Garden has been redesigned to make it shallower after 4 people drown in 2004. While safety is a serious issue, there have been many successful interactive water features and waterscapes built in the last twenty years.

Personally, I think that we will see a lot more waterscapes built in cities in the coming decades. Globally people are being asked to make increased sacrifices regarding their personal water use  (i.e. use less water, don’t water lawns, don’t hose down your driveway, don’t fill your swimming pool, etc.) Urban waterscapes offer a public place for people of all ages to to come together around water communally. I speculate there will be more demand for these types of collective experience with water, when water inevitably becomes more expensive.

The survey also asked what special memories people associated with fountains and what they think the most famous fountain is in their city or country. I’ll discuss these topics in future blog posts.

+There were also a handful of interesting off-the-beaten-path fountains that people nominated. I’ll write more about them soon.

What is your favorite fountain? Why?

April 8, 2010
See more: fountains, on the road, water