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Man-made ponds, streams and waterfalls inspired by the environment

By Anthony Archer-Wills

A few large rocks are more convincing than many small ones, but mixing sizes better simulates nature.

Beautifully executed water features have existed for thousands of years. In fact, these days, there are more well designed and constructed examples than ever before. In the last 30 years there has been a quantum leap forward in quality within the pool and water garden industries. However, there is no room for complacency and always room for improvement. Like anything else, landscape design incorporating water elements must evolve and adapt.

With new pumping technology and advanced impermeable materials emerging, landscape design is on the brink of another leap forward. As designers acquire more and more experience, they must also keep their eyes and minds open for future inspiration, whether looking to the trends of the future or traditions of the past.

A brief history of water features

In ancient Rome, emperors spent staggering fortunes on extravagant villas and water features, built with great precision and engineering skill. Huge formal pools, embellished with fountains and sculpture, were constructed of the finest longest-lasting materials available. These installations have survived for thousands of years, a testament to their construction techniques. Numerous magnificent water gardens developed during the Renaissance period are still enchanting crowds of modern tourists to this day. However, one shouldn’t pay attention merely to the much-visited gardens, but also look for more subtle and humble installations that can just as easily serve as inspiration. Designers also need to study the work of nature, in all its complexity.

This summer, I revisited an area in southern France where several fountains and stone basins lie concealed in small towns and villages. The ancient, formal stone structures and carvings have undergone a complete metamorphosis, thanks to the buildup of limestone and moss, softening and transforming them into natural organic shapes. These combinations of man-made and natural designs can serve as a reminder to modern designers to soften the straight lines of formal pools and pathways with cushions of plants. Cracks in rockwork can be hidden behind moss and ferns. Even the simplest pool and water chute, if allowed, can be transformed into an object of great beauty when accented with natural elements.

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