The art of water is the use of water features to beautify and magnify the elements of a landscape. There are several things that distinguish the art of water, as we would call it, from water itself. In some instances (but not all) water that we would call art relies on movement to generate aesthetic. When mobile and fluid, water gives the mind a feeling of being freed from form and rigid constructs. To maintain a sense of artistry, however, fluidity must be focused. Some type of geometric boundary or structure is necessary to lend aesthetic to the scene at hand.
At other times, the art of water works better from a perspective of stasis, as we see in reflecting pools. The surface of the pool becomes a mirror that reflects both organic and inorganic landscape elements. Vegetation looks more supported by the very stuff of life itself, and architecture becomes more dynamic and preeminent as it is reflected from a variety of angles that magnify its preeminence and sense of proportion.
One good example of how the art of water works as an architectural support is custom fountain design. Fountains are very important elements to landscape architecture. As masonry forms, they compliment the geometry of homes, patios, and outdoor buildings. As water moves up and out of a fountain, it creates a feeling of life, vitality, and emergence.
Placing lights in a fountain adds even more dimension to the scene. Reflecting pools and infinity ponds create mirrors on the landscape that reflect the forms of buildings. Structures take on new significance when magnified in this manner, and smaller landscapes appear much larger and complete when accented with these effects.
The art of water is also essential to designing a landscape that looks as identical to Nature as one could expect to find in an urban setting. Because even the driest parts of the world have rivers, oases, and beaches, water is an integral part of a great many natural scenes. When we create a backyard landscape that represents such a wilderness area, features like natural pools play a very critical role in establishing a sense of escape from urbanity and bustle. Streams and waterfalls are two favorite designs that can be added to a natural pond or natural swimming pool that will create such a feeling of movement and freedom.
More refined European garden elements can be customized with additional water features. For example, fountains can be placed at the heart of small parterre gardens so as to magnify their sense of proportion and aesthetic impact. Koi ponds can built into the patios entry garden courtyards. Waterfalls can actually be constructed behind these entry gardens to function as lighted walls of water that separate one portion of the landscape from the rest, or even one property from another.
While the art of water is a key component of every landscape master plan to some extent, its greatest benefit is seen in contemporary and modern landscape designs. In contemporary landscape design, we encounter an aesthetic that is extremely mentalist, mathematical, and abstract in form. Vegetation is scarcer in this landscape style than any other aesthetic. Consequently, because organic life is minimized, the stuff of life itself—water—is often used as a substitute for vegetation.
Custom fountain work is always very important to both commercial and contemporary residential landscapes. In patio designs, it lends vertical presence to an otherwise flat plane. In other areas of the yard, such as the central entrances to front yards, contemporary fountains establish a curious blend of dynamic energy and strict symmetry. In the back yard, contemporary fountains lend movement and a feeling of vitality without having to deviate from an essentially inorganic design form.
Modern landscape design is not quite as abstract or lacking in greenery as contemporary landscape design. More vegetation is common, particularly in styles such as modern tropical gardens. The art of water not only contributes a sense of life, but it also provides linkage between living elements and nonliving structures.
Modern garden design often requires a blend of high-grade material constructs, such as glass walls and steel columns bordered by plants of various species. Transforming such a glass wall into a waterfall fountain is just one example of what we mean by the art of water where simple fluidity takes form and power as a central construct of design, interest, and landscape aesthetic.