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Wall Fountains: Art in Architecture

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Form Follows Function?

wall_fountain1Wall fountains have been subject to the old debate over “form follows function” (or vice versa, as some contend) for centuries. The aqueducts of ancient Rome began with the practical function of providing water to cities for drinking and bathing. What emperor could resist turning a basic flow of water into something more beautiful and exciting?

Excavations of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city that was covered with lava when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, revealed the intricate and surprisingly advanced water system that was in use at that time. Also uncovered were many artistically sculpted fountain features, even the ones for public use.

Here is a public street fountain uncovered in Pompeii, near the modern city of Naples, Italy – and no, that is not a cigar in her mouth…it’s a pipe.

Over time, others developed water-moving technology. Figures spouting water became common in cities throughout the world. Wall fountains were only one type, but were widespread. They can be found built into stone, brick and mortar walls of buildings and gardens, with styles matching that of the place and time.


Many of the centuries old ones look frightful. They often take the form of gargoyles, lions, goats, and mean faced men with water flowing from toothy, open mouths and some erupting with projectile force. Yikes!

Architecturally, the gargoyle originated as a functional waterspout, similar to a gutter. However, this gargoyle in Manchester might have been created with form over function in mind; what with all that spewing of so much water. It is rainy in England, though.

Other styles of wall fountains were in the mix as well. For example, the fish carved into a wall in France (1668) is a bit more gentle. Ornate tiles and stone of the fountain in Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco, represents a very different artistic bent.



Our modern wall fountains are extremely varied in form and function. There are futuristic water walls for indoors and out, as well as old style and everything in between.

In the garden, a plant wall with fountain incorporated is artful and functional.

The greenery around this Rams head fountain really makes it stand out.

A wall of bromeliads, ferns and flowing water at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania cools and humidifies – soothing relief for plants and people.

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For those who like to create, a wall fountain can be a cool project. Below is a link to instructions for building one:


ancient aqueducts Architecture backyard pond bromeliads Excavations Featured Posts flowing water form follows function fountains garden design gargoyle Mount Vesuvius plant wall Pompeii Rome spouting water wall fountains water garden water wall waterspout

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