Liquid architecture – The water feature

Water and architecture have walked hand-in-hand, since the first humans started to build homes. For obvious reasons, ancient water features were almost always designed for practicality, providing precious drinking water for the household’s residents – both human and animal. Over time the household water feature became more ornate and the invention of plumbing rendered them purely decorative. For modern homeowners embarking on a renovation or new build, a water feature might not be the first thing on which to focus but considering the meditative and healing powers of water, adding one to your plans can bring a pleasingly creative ambience to your home.

Every civilisation has solved the issue of water access in its own way. Water has long been connected to spirituality (see our previous blog on the wells in Ibiza) but only as secondary to the requirement of drinking and irrigation. The Greeks liked their water to spout through the open jaws of a lion. The Romans built extensive aqueduct networks to bring water to the public while the wealthy classes installed opulent water features in their inner courtyards. However, it was the ancient Islamic world that really captured the essence of water within architecture.

The Islamic garden had its heyday in the 7th century and was designed to represent an ideal paradise. Creating heaven on earth in the shape of a garden requires copious amounts of water, in addition to ingenious and beautiful ways to deliver it. A visit to the inspirational Alhambra in Granada showcases the Moorish talent for designing water features. Among the plentiful areas where water becomes part of the design is the magnificent patio of the Sultana’s cypress tree. This is the concept of the water feature taken to its ultimate representation. The U-shaped pond is fed by high arching waterspouts, its source stemming from the irrigation system of the nearby orange and myrtle groves. The patio’s name comes from the ancient cypress tree under which it was rumoured the Sultan’s wife would meet her lover. Romance and water have always been cosmically interconnected.

Water features have found their way into many Blakstad designs, including our office – the striking front doors open directly onto an inner courtyard featuring a rectangular reflecting pool and an ancient hand-hewn stone trough. The design has its roots in pre-Roman history and creates an instantly soothing ambience. No matter how distracted you are, the simple act of passing by a body of water with purely spiritual purpose is food for the soul. Take a couple of moments to stop and contemplate the sound of trickling and the way light is reflected on the surface and you can turn your whole mood around.

Thankfully, today water features have moved well beyond grandma’s birdbath topped with a grinning cherub. Contemporary designs channel the ancient ways while creating a thoroughly modern connection between the water feature and surrounding architecture. Colour, shape and sound all combine to create something truly special that aligns the angles of the house with the personalities of the occupants.

Environmental concerns are definitely a priority but the water feature can actually be utilised in conservation, becoming part of the property’s water recycling system as well as respite for the island’s wildlife. Adding a water feature might seem indulgent to some, but clever design and forethought can create something that supports the environment while providing householders with visual and aural beauty.

The water feature provides an opportunity to bring art into architecture, transforming it from an architectural motif to an outdoor sculpture. From Bernini’s masterpieces throughout Rome to Bertrand Lavier’s ‘unruly mass’ of brightly coloured hoses bound by cables and installed outside the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Hyde Park, artists have been playing with water for centuries. There’s no reason an Ibiza home shouldn’t do the same.

© Copyright – Blakstad Ibiza

© Copyright – Blakstad Ibiza