The Art of Water
James Garland, the founder of Fluidity, a water-based design and engineering firm, gave a spectacular lecture on fountains and water features through the ages. The designer of the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Jim also showed us contemporary projects he designed in Dubai, China, and South Korea among other destinations.
Jim went on a “fountain safari,” to study water features worldwide. The pool at the Taj Mahal is quite thin. But it is just long and wide enough to reflect this magnificent building. The water gardens at the Alhambra in Spain are one of the most copied as well. Even Richard Meier said he was thinking of them when he designed the pools and fountains at the Getty. In Italy, the collection of fountains at Villa d’Este are like a museum. That these fountains are 500 years old, the Alhambra 700 years old, and the Taj Mahal 350 years old demonstrates how much people cherish them that they have been taken care of for so long and so well. With Versailles in France, one sees the largest expression of fountains at 200 feet tall. At Trafalgar Square in London, Jim said he received the biggest lesson of his career. Designed by Edward Lutyens, these fountains, he went on to say, “are a living anatomy of vitality, spectacle and exuberance, put together with great skill.”
Designing modern fountains is a very collaborative process with plumbing and electrical engineers and lighting designers. Jim showed us beautiful designs that he created in Cairo with spectacular arches of water in a particular space, and others in Tokyo and New York City where he won the competition to design the fountains in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Jim also enjoyed visiting the fountains at Robinson Gardens. Not only are they very well done, he said, “but they also work very well with the plants and statuary.” “Fountains,” he concluded, “bring delight into a space, and make us enchanted.”
At the luncheon after the lecture, we were served on lovely tables, decorated by Marian Power and architect Janice Jerde who co-chaired the event along with Marian. The tablecloths, sewn by Marian for the wedding reception of Janice’s daughter in Nantucket, were particularly beautiful. They were iridescent, with varying hues of blue and ivory, like the ocean. Sea shells were scattered about, completing the water theme.