Water as the wine of architecture. Sparkling or still, its ability to enhance a building has been appreciated for centuries. Water is spirit to architecture’s substance; it is the wit and grace of a building; narcissistic sheets of silver for architecture’s solemn beauties. Its fountains, cascades, channels and pools are the supreme aesthetic “grand geste” that has traditionally completed the greatest building schemes of every age. The use of water with architecture has a long history and a universally seductive appeal; superfluous watery jots, “water works,” as the artful disposition of still and moving water has been called at least since the Renaissance, have been less concerned with plumbing than with pleasure…
…Order, however, was the other side of the baroque coin, and behind the uninhabited displays was a carefully prescribed plan. The design of the house, garden, and water system followed a formal, co-ordinated pattern. Water courses and fountains were used as instruments of the new science of perspective, to lead the eye through symmetrical vistas. It is water, also, that gives unity to the city of Rome, through its fountains, particularly as they appear in the seventeenth-century masterpieces of Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, which remain in the nostalgic mind’s eye and ear as the embodiment of the city’s voluptuous spirit.
The visitor who has lingered late in the Piazza Navona will always remember the sounds of the early Roman evening, the muted splashing and murmuring of great fountains as their Gargantuan figures are bathed in deepening golden light. Rome is the sound of running water, and Bernini’s fountains are its heart.
As the baroque moved to conquer Europe, the French raised it to a cooler, more intellectual grandeur and gave the world Versailles. But first, in 1661, they built Vaux-le-Vicomte, the one-thousand acre estate of Nicolas Fouquet, finance minister of Louis XIV. It was erected in a style of such striking spendor that the King, jealous of its magnificence and suspicious of its costs, ordered Fouquet arrested shortly after the spectacular opening fete given by the minister in his honor. By a curious coincidence, Louis had something similar in mind, and soon the designers of Vaux-le-Vicomte, including the architect trained Andre Le Notre who created the gardens that dazzled the world, were in the King’s employ, buiding Versailles.
Le Notre took the formal baroque plan and the seventeenth-century love affair with water and defined them both with unprecedented elegance. Glittering sprays, placid pools, and wide green parterres were carefully related to the massive marble buildings. The Grand Canal that stretches between the Basin of Apollo on the main axis of the palace was large enough to accommodate a miniature fleet and a permanent delegation of Venetian gondoliers. The leafy bosquets were punctuated by flashing fountains and water fancies that included sparkling plumes arching over dry walks, artificial rain delicately falling on trees and grasses made of copper, and a water theater where, according to a contemporary witness, ” the water goes through many and diverse changes… and its play causes as much surprise as admiration.”
These hydraulic marvels were engineered by Francois and Pierre de Francine, who constructed a system of “water machines” – horse pumps and windmills- to bring water to the palace reservoirs. Eventually the supply became so scanty as the works grew that most of the next decade was spent in seeking additional sources. Faced with the further demands of the Trianon Gardens in
, the Francines devised, probably in desperation, a way to recirculate and re-use the inadequate supplies.
(see link at end)…Fourteen paddlewheels, each about 30 feet in diameter, were turned by the Seine to power more than 200 pumps, forcing river water up a series of pipes to the Louveciennes aquaduct, a 500 foot vertical rise.
The original Louis XIV Machine included not just an enormous structure on the river itself, but sprawled all the way up the hill, comprising pumping stations, holding tanks, reservoirs, pipes and an intricate system of mechanical linkages to power pumps on the hill from the waterwheels below. Several accounts of the epoque describe the infernal noise this all generated, keeping Mme Dubarry (Louis XV’s last mistress) and her guests awake in her nearby chateau. Sixty maintenance workers were employed to keep it running. Pumping at full capacity, it could add over a million gallons in 24 hours to the Marly reservoirs. Read More:http://pruned.blogspot.com/2005/08/la-machine-de-marly_24.html