A Robinson Gardens Fountain Story

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A Robinson Gardens Fountain Story

I recently shared the surprise of many first-time visitors to Robinson Gardens, wondering how something so impressive and delightful could be kept such a relative secret. Quickly enough this reaction was overtaken by discovery. The curious silence of the palm garden, the seeming endlessness of the landscape’s jig-sawed sections, its easy mixing of symmetry and asymmetry, the exotic, large trees—and the property’s many fountains with their playful complications, wove together a special elegance and identity.

My work as a fountain designer has allowed me to visit and study many of the world’s famous fountains, and I know how difficult they are to get right. Everyone seems to enjoy Rome’s boat fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps or Paris’ Fountain of the Innocents, or the Spiral Fountain in Sydney’s Darling Harbour, and the professional tries to understand why, but much remains a mystery.

The fountains of Robinson Gardens remind me very much of those of the Alhambra, in Granada, Spain. I believe their playfulness is partly due to their beguiling self-awareness of this point.

The Alhambra’s reflection pool at the Court of the Myrtles engages in perfect stillness a symmetrical, arching, layered façade of refined architecture flanked by plantings, much as does the emerald swimming pool at the top of the Robinson Gardens lawn. Admittedly, there is no Californian parallel to the Alhambra’s Court of the Lions, but how could there be?

The cascade of inverted roof tiles centered in the steps of water feature #2 of the garden’s south section’s sequence of nine fountains relates to the Generalife’s handrail fountain, and the manner in which the cascade is centered in the staircase references directly the Alhambra’s eastern stair above the Partal. It is here that Robinson Garden scores its first win, as the sparkling flows’ happy dog tail wag is far superior to the Alhambra’s simple drips.

While watching I thought, ‘Sure, this is nice, but at the Alhambra there are twin flows and the sound effect is in stereo!’ That vanity was short lived, as Robinson tapped back in the next section down where a pair of lion masks stream into bracketing basins, achieving a perfectly respectable stereo sound. ‘Sure’, I thought again, ‘but the stair integration at the Alhambra is nicer’. And then Robinson Gardens leaned in with another double effect with dual cascades integrated into the stairs’ two sides—just like at the Partal’s western stair. To be fair, the Alhambran version looks better in darker, flat-faced brick, but RG’s actions and sounds are brashly superior.

The Alhambra is seven hundred years old. It was built by the Moors and reflects their deeply felt values of craft, architectural beauty, inspired poetry, refined garden arts and unmatched fountain skills. The palace and grounds of the Alhambra have been celebrated for centuries. It is no small thing for a garden in Los Angeles to compete with any of its remarkable details. Ultimately, perhaps, the comparison is unfair, as the age and graces of the Moor’s apotheosis may not be surpassed on its own terms and the formula of creating heroic poetry with the slimmest amounts of water may have been perfected at that time. But we need also to give credit where credit is due, and the fifteen water features of Robinson Gardens are a significant and valuable treasure.

 

James Garland AIA NCARB   
Founder & President

James Garland founded Fluidity Design Consultants in 2002 after twenty years of practice in water design, architecture and urbanism.

Jim began working in water at Wet Design as a consultant in 1986 while maintaining private practice and teaching, then switched to full time in 1994 to ultimately become Wet’s Director of Design. Jim’s major projects included:  Canal City Hakata (Fukuoka, Japan), Al Faisaliah (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), Lisbon Expo ‘98 (Lisbon, Portugal) Millenium Park (Singapore),  the Rose Garden Arena (Portland, Oregon), the Burj Al Arab (Dubai, UAE) and Water Tower Place (Chicago, USA).  During this period, Jim also designed water features in Kuala Lumpur, Chicago, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Berlin, Miami Beach and Houston.

Fluidity was established to create a new generation of water features conceived, crafted, and engineered for a more sustainable century with a fresh, invigorating aesthetic. Jim’s work in such projects as the Hearst Building (New York City, USA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City), VivoCity (Singapore), Dubai Festival City (Dubai, UAE), Myriad Gardens (Oklahoma, USA), Grand Park (Los Angeles), Lusail Parks (Doha, Qatar), Santa Monica City Hall (California), Daesung D3 City  (Seoul, South Korea), and Z-15 Tower (Beijing, China) are all examples of Fluidity’s advanced design initiative.

Jim Garland holds a Masters degree in Architecture from UCLA, with a focus in architecture and urban design. His undergraduate degree, also in architecture, was obtained from the University of Louisiana. Jim interned at Urban Innovations Group under Charles W. Moore, FAIA, an internationally celebrated architect and later, Jon Jerde on large-format mixed-use and urban design projects.

Jim is a licensed architect in several states in the US, including California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma and Maryland, and holds an NCARB certificate.  He has lectured at Harvard University, London’s Architectural Association and the American Academy in Rome. In 1998, two of his sketchbooks were selected for exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Design Museum.

Concurrently with directing Fluidity’s design efforts, Jim is writing two books about fountains, one covering a 2,000 year history of best examples, and the other focusing on Fluidity projects, with speculations about the future of water design.
Founder & President

James Garland founded Fluidity Design Consultants in 2002 after twenty years of practice in water design, architecture and urbanism.

Jim began working in water at Wet Design as a consultant in 1986 while maintaining private practice and teaching, then switched to full time in 1994 to ultimately become Wet’s Director of Design. Jim’s major projects included:  Canal City Hakata (Fukuoka, Japan), Al Faisaliah (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), Lisbon Expo ‘98 (Lisbon, Portugal) Millenium Park (Singapore),  the Rose Garden Arena (Portland, Oregon), the Burj Al Arab (Dubai, UAE) and Water Tower Place (Chicago, USA).  During this period, Jim also designed water features in Kuala Lumpur, Chicago, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Berlin, Miami Beach and Houston.

Fluidity was established to create a new generation of water features conceived, crafted, and engineered for a more sustainable century with a fresh, invigorating aesthetic. Jim’s work in such projects as the Hearst Building (New York City, USA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City), VivoCity (Singapore), Dubai Festival City (Dubai, UAE), Myriad Gardens (Oklahoma, USA), Grand Park (Los Angeles), Lusail Parks (Doha, Qatar), Santa Monica City Hall (California), Daesung D3 City  (Seoul, South Korea), and Z-15 Tower (Beijing, China) are all examples of Fluidity’s advanced design initiative.

Jim Garland holds a Masters degree in Architecture from UCLA, with a focus in architecture and urban design. His undergraduate degree, also in architecture, was obtained from the University of Louisiana. Jim interned at Urban Innovations Group under Charles W. Moore, FAIA, an internationally celebrated architect and later, Jon Jerde on large-format mixed-use and urban design projects.

Jim is a licensed architect in several states in the US, including California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma and Maryland, and holds an NCARB certificate.  He has lectured at Harvard University, London’s Architectural Association and the American Academy in Rome. In 1998, two of his sketchbooks were selected for exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Design Museum.

Concurrently with directing Fluidity’s design efforts, Jim is writing two books about fountains, one covering a 2,000 year history of best examples, and the other focusing on Fluidity projects, with speculations about the future of water design.

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