Worlds Most Bizarre Water Fountains

Fountains come in all shapes and sizes, their waters variously displayed from a cascading flow to a gushing geyser, and something ingrained within the human psyche responds to the splash and flow that soothes, relaxes, and inspires reflection. The captivating beauty of abundant and extravagant flow of water rising, tumbling, spilling, and jetting into the air in the hot summer heat provides a stunning, cooling, and refreshing oasis as the waters dance in the sunlight, or colorfully and brightly illuminated against dark evening skies.

This fountain forms the entrance to the headquarters in Wattens, Austria of Swarovski Crystal.

The resonating sounds of splashing, flowing or moving waters can mask niggling noises in bustling cities as one listens to the fragile sounds of water rather than distracting clatter and blare of traffic, providing a peaceful and serene environment.

Frisco Square fountain in Texas.

Untermeyer fountain.

Grand Army Plaza fountain, Brooklyn

Types of Fountains
The aesthetic use of water flowing monuments vary from traditional wall fountains to free-standing structures and edifices, flowing and ebbing over a diversity of surfaces of stone, concrete or metal, located in small, artificial, ornamental ponds, basins and formal garden pools, often including sculpture and artwork.

Frog fountain in koi pond. Walnut Creek, California

Crown Fountain, named in honor of Chicago’s Crown family, was designed by Catalan conceptual artist Jaume Plensa, and is the first of its kind in the world.

Crown Fountain.

Animated Fountains
Animated fountains frequently use laminar jets that provide water which moves like ping pong balls in animation, so that it breaks up as the height varies. The behavior of each jet operates independently so that the water packets collide with themselves. They can even discharge a ball of water which then explodes, showering people with a fine mist.

One of the fountains in the walk of a thousand fountains. 

Walk of a thousand fountains.

The twins, suckling at the teats of the she-wolf in Rome

Children’s Fountain by Tom Corbin in Kansas City, Missouri.

Musical Fountains
Musical fountains are a type of animated fountain that dance in time with recorded or live music, creating an aesthetic design and sometimes 3-D images. They’re performed with the effects of sound waves and light or laser against water particles in which the water streams, activated in strategically-timed durations, refracting and reflecting the light, controlled either by a computer or a live “organist” operating the fountain through a switchboard.

Many of the more well-known musical fountains are large-scale, and use hundreds of water jets and laser emitters, the cost of which runs into the millions of dollars, although smaller forms exist where the budget ranges to around a thousand dollars. 

A number of companies offer software and hardware that cause pumps to turn on and off and lights to change in response to the bass and treble of music fed through the system, causing the fountain to respond automatically without a need for manual choreography.

A real working organ, powered by water pressure.

Fountains choreographed to music also generally called musical fountains, appear to respond to music but have been programmed beforehand. The earliest of these were played manually by a live operator, who usually controlled pumps or valves and sometimes lights by way of switches on a control panel, and the music was almost always live. 

Later, choreography was prerecorded on a punched paper card which was scanned by a computer, and more recently, it has been recorded on tape or CD along with the music. Even so, the choreography must still be painstakingly programmed by hand.

Notable examples of this are fountains on Vasilievsky Island in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the fountains of the Bellagio in the Las Vegas Strip.

The Singing Fountain.

The Singing Fountain is one of Mariánské Lázně’s unique wonders — a round pool 59 feet (18 meters) in diameter featuring a 12-piece stone sculpture representing a flower in the center of its shallow bowl. The fountain contains 10 intrinsic water jet systems with more than 250 water jets. The water gushes from the water jet in the center up to a height of 20 feet (6 meters). The creator of this artwork is the architect Pavel Mikšík. 

The first music piece for the Singing Fountain was composed by the Czech composer Petr Hapka. Other compositions followed — Chopin, Mozart, Bach, Gounod, Smetana, Dvořák amongst others. The fountain’s spellbinding tones resound at every odd hour and the compositions are repeated regularly. The Singing Fountain was first heard on April 30 1986. 

Hydraulophone Fountain
A hydraulophone is a fountain that can be played as a musical instrument which is like woodwind instruments, using water instead of air. The embouchure of the instrument occurs at the finger holes, referred to as “mouths.”

Ontario Science Centre hydraulophone flute with 45 finger holes. Here a skilled hydraulist demonstrates proper hydraulophone technique.

Hydraulophones often have multiple “mouths,” so that a player can put each finger into a different mouth at the same time in order to play chords, while independently manipulating each finger for separate and individual control of the embouchure of each note in a chord. A skilled hydraulist can slightly “bend” each note in order to play just intonation in any desired key, or to gently and fluidly vary intonation or temperament as a piece of music changes from one key to another.

Splash Fountains
Splash or bathing fountains are designed for people to cool off in and feature nonslip surfaces, so that people can safely use them to cool off in on hot summer days. Many aquatic play features are based around splash pads which have nearly zero depth standing water to eliminate possible drowning hazards, so that no lifeguards or supervision is required for aquatic play areas.

International Fountain in Seattle designed specifically as a bathing fountain, with speakers for music to splash to

Urban beach splash pad at High Park, Toronto.

The splash pads are usually surfaced in textured non-slip concrete or in crumb rubber, typically located in public pools, public parks, or public playgrounds known as “spraygrounds.”

Many splash pads have some features such as fine mist, which are designed to be moderate enough for children. Other splash fountains are designed for adults, such as joggers or concert goers to cool off in.

The splash fountain in Toronto’s city center, Dundas Square, features spray nozzles that shoot water straight up through stainless steel grilles set right in the middle of the main walkway. The nozzles rise and fall in unison to create the atmosphere of an urban beach, so that there are times when the water level is low enough for children to also play in the water.

Jogger cooling off in the 20 splash fountains that form the centerpiece of Dundas Square, Toronto.

Consisting of 600 ground nozzles arranged in groups of 30 (3 rows of 10 nozzles), each group of 30 nozzles is located beneath a stainless steel grille. Twenty of these grilles are arranged in 2 rows of 10, right in the middle of the main walkway through Dundas Square. The entire surface of Dundas Square is made of special nonslip square granite slabs that match the size of the metal grilles.

Fountain of Rings. 

Spray Fountains

Spray fountains are designed to serve as a play area where people can run around and cool off under a canopy of water, and are becoming popular in areas where the construction of public pools is difficult or costly, such as urban areas.

Decorative metal fountain in Canberra. 

Fountains for Celebration
Many civic fountains in public parks are commissioned in commemoration of either national or public figures.

The University at Albany hosts an annual “Fountain Day,” for which the university community celebrates the arrival of spring and the near-end of the semester. Drawing large crowds, the fountain-centered event creates something akin to an urban beach.

Fountain at the University of Southern California popularly called “The Finger” because of its general shape and its orientation toward a certain rival school

Tivoli fountain, Ovetta.

King Fahd’s Fountain, world’s tallest fountain.

Located in the city Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and named for King Fahd, the tallest fountain in the world can achieve a height up to 1023 feet (312 meters). Each of the 3 massive pumps deliver 165 gallons (625 liters) of water per second. The water is propelled through 5 inch (12.6 centimeter) nozzles at an incredible speed of 233 mph (375 km/h).

Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City, Singapore listed by the Guinness Book of Records in 1998 as the largest fountain in the world.

The Fountain of Wealth is made of bronze, and consists of a circular ring with a circumference of about 216 feet (66 meters) supported on 4 large slanted columns, occupying an area of 5525 feet (1683.07 sq. meters), with a height of 45 feet (13.8 meters). In the design plan of Suntec City, where the 5 tower blocks represent the fingers and thumb of a left hand emerging from the ground, the fountain forms the palm of the hand.

During certain periods of the day, the fountain is turned off and visitors can walk around a mini fountain at the centre of the fountain’s base for good luck. At night, the fountain is the setting for laser performances, as well as “live” song and laser message dedications.

Fountain of Life
Man has long had a fascination of water which has even had spiritual qualities recognized in religion and ritual, from baptism to death. Christian parables made use of the concept of fountains to a wide degree, specifically the Fountain of Life, associated with the rebirth that was intended to be experienced at the Baptismal font. 

An offshoot of the Fountain of Life was the legend of the Fountain of Youth from which one can drink to gain immortality or to regain youth, which Juan Ponce de Leon sought in Florida.

PPG Place located in downtown Pittsburgh

Water Fountain from Wilson Park in Florence, AL.

Fountain at Columbus Circle in New York City.

musical fountain in Xi’an, China

Animated fountain in Moscow’s Square of Europe, with cascades of water jets pulsating up and down to imitate the surf.

Mercury Fountain
The Mercury Fountain was designed for the Barcelona exhibition of 1937, in remembrance of the miners who were killed at the mercury mines at Almaden. Alexander Calder created a memorial fountain flowing with mercury instead of water, which is now enclosed behind glass.

Mercury fountain created by Calder as a tribute to the mercury miners of Almaden.

Gin Fountain
During New York City’s first drought emergency in modern times, window designer Gene Moore created sparkling fountains hung with diamonds for Tiffany’s. A card in a corner explained, “This is not New York’s precious water. This is gin.”

Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru

Fountain show at Bellagio, Las Vegas

History of Fountains
Fountains have been a significant feature of landscape design since ancient times. Reemerging in the late Middle Ages, they reached their peak in the Renaissance and Baroque eras, with designs in which sculpture became prominent, such as Rome’s Trevi Fountain which was completed in 1762.

Early fountains depended on the natural gravitational flow of water, from a spring or aqueduct supplied by a distant and higher source of water, which provided hydraulic head.

Reciprocating motion was first described in 1206 by Iraqi engineer and inventor al-Jazari when the kings of the Artuqid dynasty in Turkey commissioned him to manufacture a machine to raise water for their palaces. The most superb result was an machine called the double-acting reciprocating piston pump, which translated rotary motion to reciprocating motion via the crankshaft-connecting rod mechanism. 

Other early fountains were geometrically regularized springs, developed in the classic Persian garden. These gardens were typically enclosed and were designed to provide relaxation. The effect of sunlight was the main concern regarding the structural aspect of the Persian garden design, so shapes and textures were specifically chosen for their ability to direct sunlight.

Fountain in Houston, Texas

Lima, Peru

One of the two fountains in a St. Peter’s square in Rome.

In the 16th century elaborate fountain displays were garden features of Mannerist gardens of Central Italy and the Mughal gardens of India.

In ancient Greece columnar shrines were built over springs and dedicated to deities or nymphs. In ancient Rome fountains fed by the great aqueduct system furnished water in the streets, in the villa gardens, and in town houses. While there were few public fountains in the Middle Ages, a number of beautiful examples remain, particularly in Italy, where splendid Renaissance fountains depicting the full artistic energy of the period are found even in the smallest village square. 

The Romans marked the delivery end of aqueducts with a public fountain, when the restored Aqua Felice delivered a symbolic presentation of its waters to Rome in the original Trevi Fountain. It has since been replaced by the familiar Baroque fusion of water, architecture and sculpture. Supplying water through conduits to multiple fountains, such as the Palace of Versailles, was an important feat.

Santiago, Chile

Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru.

WWII memorial fountain.

The development of the great 16th- and 17th-century villas, with their hillside gardens and natural water sources inspired incredible ingenuity in water decoration. In the Villa d’Este at Tivoli and the villas at Frascati near Rome, the various disposals of water established a fundamental element of the garden composition. In France the gardens of the palace of Versailles, designed by Le Nôtre, incorporated a vast scheme of water adornment with elaborate sculptures. The supply, held in a reservoir at Marly, was raised 500 feet (152 meters) above the Seine by machinery. 

A theatrical trend of the baroque period found expression in fountains with animated postures of sculptured nymphs, sea horses, and dolphins, the water splashing over the rims of the uppermost bowls which cascaded upon artificial rocks and shells.

Paseo de Buen Pastor

Water show on Jinji Lake, the largest interior lake in China.

An enormous figure of Neptune was a favorite motif, as in famous examples at Florence, Bologna, and Rome, such as Bernini’s fountain with a sculpture of Neptune in Rome. He also planned the splendidly simple fountains in St. Peter’s Square and the dramatic fountains in the Piazza Navona. 

In Middle Eastern cities the public fountains are completely enclosed within structures richly finished in marble and ceramics, with numerous examples in Istanbul, Cairo, and Damascus. The modern public drinking fountain is typically strictly utilitarian in design in the West, but American architects and landscape artists are encouraging the use of the ornamental fountains with positive success.

A mini-version of all of the major landmarks in Rome, built so that the Pope could sit up here and keep watch on the city.

“Angel of the Waters,” more commonly called Bethesda Fountain by sculptor Emma Stebbins

Les Fontaines de bronze au Monument aux Girondins

Wrangel fountain in Berlin Kreuzberg. The fountain was designed 1871 by Hugo Hagen,built 1877 and moved to its recent location 1902.

Lady represents the river “Elbe” as one of 4 figures on the Wrangel fountain.

Fountain at Parque los Caobos

J.C. Nichols Fountain by Henri-Léon Gréber (1910), in Kansas City, Missouri. The 4
cast bronze equestrian figures represent 4 great rivers of the world -
the Rhine, the Seine, the Volga and the Mississippi

Neptune Fountain, Kansas City, Missouri.

Fountain in Villa Borghese, Rome

Water clock in Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy

Wall fountain

Animated fountain in front of the Brooklyn Museum consists of laminar flow water jets.

Decorative fountain in a central square in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain.

Fountain shower scene at The Seattle Center during the Bumbershoot Festival.

This boat in the Rometta fountain represents the Tiber Island

Fontaine Park Darcy in Dijon.

Fountain of Neptune

Fountain at Point State Park where the 3 rivers meet in downtown Pittsburgh.

Spinning Fountain in Fussen

Modern Fountain is a sculpture fountain opposite to Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche.

Waterfalls and fountains at the Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, run for 322 feet (98 meters) on the embankment overlooking right-center are on display before and after the game and in-between innings, while the waterfalls are constantly flowing.

Famous Traditional Fountains

Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Fontana di Trevi, Rome

St. Peter’s Square Fountain - Wind & Water

Buckingham Fountain

Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Swann Memorial Fountain, Schuylkill Girl

Swann Memorial Fountain, the Delaware River Brave

Fountains of Caserta Palace in southern Italy

The Cascade House in the gardens of Chatsworth House, Derbyshire.

The Cascade from below.

Peterhof and its Grand Cascade

Grand Cascade, Samson and the Lion

Staircase fountain of the Grand Cascade

Grove Baths of Apollo at the Chateau de Versailles

Apollo, gardens of Versailles.

South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London. East Fountain by William McMillan 1948.

Trafalgar Square fountain

Fountain of the Triton, in Piazza Barberini square, by Gianlorenzo Bernini, Rome.

Magic Fountain of Montjuic, Barcelona, Spain

Amazing Water Writing Fountain in Canal City of Japan

Bellagio Fountain Show Las Vegas

Canal City Musical Water Fountain

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