The role of the fountain in urban architecture

The role of the fountain in urban architecture

If only it were possible to travel through time, we would see with our eyes how man has always been closely connected to water, linking his very existence to this element. Just think of the multiple uses of water, from food to transport and construction, so much so that there is no sector in which it is not contemplated and for this very reason it has soon come to be elevated to a symbol for the demonstration of socio-economic power of an individual or of a city.



Fountains were built already in the Hellenistic period, whose value was so important both from a social point of view (people went there to draw water and they became places of social life), and under the idea of the power that that city had. They were not simple water collection pools, because were adorned with various elements, including statues, to give majesty and original scenic effects, up to Roman times, when the fountains were conceived as stand-alone monumental elements. They were inserted in the urban landscape as a necessary and aggregating complement in the city, finding their place in points of connection and junction of city traffic. Also in this period the fountains become more intimate, entering the private villas and imperial residences, still symbolizing power and prestige, while in the Roman colonies they mainly played a social role, overshadowing the concept of wealth and supremacy.



With the fall of the Roman Empire there is a progressive decline of the emblematic function of the fountain, but with the Renaissance period the fountains regain their importance returning to be the fulcrum of urban renewal, useful for breaking up the surrounding built structure made of a succession of palaces: the fountains rise to a scenic element capable of enriching, enhancing and even thrilling, as they are real works of art. It is in this period that nobles and popes fostered architects to find new hydraulic technical knowledge, combining science and art in order to obtain a perfectly balanced piece of furniture and supplies.



Then with the development of aqueducts and water networks, the fountain gradually lost its civil function, acquiring only the scenic role, passing from an element of need and artistic enhancement to a monument.
From this moment on, the fountain becomes a place of visual pleasure and a psychotherapeutic destination: water and all its forms generates a long series of feelings, such as the joy given by the jets or the sense of bliss given by an unmoving body of water, and this palette of emotions has contributed over time to the definition of a great variety of forms in the urban environment as well as in the green one.


Now the focus of architecture is to redevelop settlements through the use of natural elements to recreate healthier and more liveable environments: vegetation and water, in addition to their aesthetic value, have a purely functional role in purifying the air and improvement of the environmental microclimate. For this reason, it is more and more frequent to find squares and urban areas newly covered with fountains and ornamental plants perfectly inserted in the context, where the combination of built and nature generates a continuum of harmony and dynamism: between the immobility of the buildings, jets of water and brightly colored plants rise and they become an artistic texture that accompanies the urban architecture.



It is now increasingly easy to find dry fountains in the squares, whose jets come out of the pavement and create scenic backdrops that enrich the surrounding nature and architecture. Chosen for their playful sense and the dynamism of their water games, they become places of sociality thanks to their movements that catalyze the attention of passers-by and the sense of amazement and joy they arouse. More sophisticated, however, are the mirrored fountains, whose reflective surface creates an expanse of reflections with a refined design. Otherwise, the conservative restoration sector is becoming increasingly important, where the fountains are restored to their original beauty, which hides an innovative heart that makes them sustainable, smart and long-lasting. The restored fountains are now that touch of class with a vintage tone which, inserted in the modern urban redevelopment with a contemporary mood, enriches the context and connects it to its history and past.



Today as in the past, the fountain continues to be an emblem of well-being and comfort, without ever falling into the old dichotomy “luxury / waste”, indeed it is increasingly connected to the “new” wealth that redesigns everything in a sustainable way, respectful of nature and calibrated on a controlled and careful management of water and energy resources. Today as then, the fountain is designed according to the client’s wishes and arises harmoniously from the context that welcomes it, whose growth and evolution will then follow, merging into a single element.


Susanna Dei Rossi

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