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water illustration by chad hagen

On Paper, City Water Looks Lovely

re:vision magazine waterA wonderful take on urban water from graphic artist Chad Hagen, created for issue #1 of online magazine Re:Vision. (See the accompanying article citing forward-thinking water management in several U.S. cities.)

For reasons I can’t quite explain, this is visually mesmerizing to me…perhaps it’s the motion, the flow, the movement? Or, because like water, it is both simple and complex, depending on how you look at it?

water illustration by chad hagen

Public Art and the Beauty of Sewage Treatment

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with mandatory public art funding. Sometimes the results are seriously wonderful and sometimes they’re seriously silly…money well-spent, or money mis-spent.

Wooden walkway, mountains and outfall: Image of the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution control plant by photographer-in-residence Robert Dawson (Robert Dawson via mercurynews.com)

This public art project in my view is seriously wonderful. Noted environmental photographer Robert Dawson has spent the past year as the “photographer-in-residence” at the San Jose/Santa Clara sewage treatment plant, a $65,000 project made possible by a city public art ordinance which sets aside 1% funding of selected capital improvement projects for public art.

This is a fantastic proposition as this plant, one of the largest such facilities in California, serves 1.5 million people who’d probably like to have a look at they’ve paid for, as well as what they will be paying for over the next couple decades as the facility embarks on a major 15-year renovation.

A strange conundrum for those who must convince the public to fund large water projects is the fact that most of the infrastructure is invisible to the public (until a pipe bursts). Out of sight, out of mind. Public art is a wonderful way to illustrate that there’s a lot more involved in this process after the dirty water goes down one’s drain.

Many believe that what’s needed to fix crumbling water infrastructure is more money and more engineering. For starters, I think we could use more artists.

Read more about this project and view more photos at mercurynews.com, via Aquafornia
See more of Robert Dawson’s portfolio, which includes the fantastic Global Water Project and Water in the West.

trompe loiel swimming pool

World’s Best Swimming Pool for Dry Climates

Now this is a sweet swimming pool for a parched landscape because it uses absolutely no water at all! In fact, it’s a dreamy, creative illusion!

Virginia-based master gardener and talented painter Patty Butters created this trompe l’oeil panorama on top of an existing concrete pad that had seen better days. Nice touch, too, with the inflatable chaises, where guests can relax and float away on a fantasy. I’m sorry that my photos don’t do justice to the “pool’s” realism…during my visit to her wonderful garden, I did not realize the pool was an illusion until I was about 8 feet from its “edge.”  How cool..conceptually-speaking!

trompe loeil painted swimming pool

trompe loiel swimming pool

Trompe loeil painted swimming pool

trompe loeil painted swimming pool

power toilets public art by superflex washbasins, sinks

Power Toilets: Because we’re all the same inside (the restroom)

This proves even the most powerful people can’t feel secure anywhere! Working from secret photos taken of what must be one of the world’s most closely-guarded loos, the Danish group SUPERFLEX has created the installation Power Toilets, which lets us envision the movements of global movers and shakers. We can see that the decor is quite minimalist; surprising (or maybe not!)

From the SUPERFLEX website,

Power Toilets is a copy of the toilets used by the members of the UN Security Council in the UN Headquarter, New York. The UN building was the result of the collaborative efforts of a multinational team of leading architects. When completed in 1952, it stood as a symbol of unity after the Second World War and has since hosted many historic aspirations, speeches, debates and gatherings of world leaders.

Based on photos taken secretly, the interior of the Power Toilets is identical in detail to that of the sanitary facilities at one of the most secure buildings in the world. Bathers and canoeists at the Park van Luna are now free to use the same toilets as the world’s most powerful leaders. The interior design is typical to the 1950’s including a lot of marble, steel and the iconic American Standard appliances. The exterior has a neutral nondescript shape like it was cut out of the UN-building in New York and moved intact to this new development in Noord-Holland.

power toilets public art by SUPERFLEX: urinals

power toilets public art by superflex washbasins, sinks

Aqua Building Chicago Illinois

Aqua in Chicago: 82 Stories of Inspiration

Aqua Building Chicago Illinois

Aqua Building, Chicago, Illinois

While visiting Chicago recently, my hotel was right next door to the much-praised new Aqua building…and really, I just couldn’t get enough of staring up at it’s unusual form.

The 82-story, mixed-used building was designed by Jeanne Gang, principal and founder of Studio Gang Architects. It is her first skyscraper project and the largest project ever awarded to an American firm headed by a woman. Good start, Jeanne! Gang has cited the striated limestone outcroppings that are a common topographic feature of the Great Lakes region as inspiration for the sculptural, undulating slabs that give the building its exciting, water-inspired design.

Provocative Poster Gallery: 40 Days of Water

tap water forty days of water posterBrowse this neat poster set created by Flickr user pope saint victor tied to the 40 Days of Water effort from Blood:Water Mission. This initiative is encouraging groups and individuals to drink water as their only beverage for the 40 Days between February 17th and April 3rd. Water for thirst and food for thought, too!

40 days of water facts. fact #20., originally uploaded by pope saint victor.

Wild Recycling: Flush Away Cancer

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas on how to recycle old toilets (like this and this) and “Flush Away Cancer” demonstrates wild and wonderful out-of-the-bowl thinking on creative loo reuse.

Traveling Toilet photo via www.wbng.com

Traveling Toilet photo via www.wbng.com

For the Tri-Town (New York) Relay for Life, one team has conceived the hysterical “Traveling Toilet.” to raise funds. For a $10 donation, the team will plant a brightly painted toilet on the lawn of your choice. The receiver of the “Traveling Toilet” either donates $10 to have it removed, or can send it to the next location of their choice for a $15 donation.

Sounds like a lot of fun, especially since all money benefits the American Cancer Society. And if you’re like me, you immediately began compiling a mental list of people that you WISH you could put on the receiving end!

Yosemite February Fire Fall: A Hot Photo Op

It’s a good thing I read Aquafornia or I might never have known about the odd, rare and spectacular illusion known as the Yosemite “Fire Fall”… which actually involves no fire whatsoever.

Left, Horsetail Falls-Yosemite, by dlr9000 on Flickr

In Yosemite there is an almost non-existent waterfall called “Horsetail Falls.” During the last two weeks in February if conditions are perfect, photographers and spectators can witness what appears to be molten lava spilling over the Falls, but what is, in fact, an illusion caused by the angle of the sun.

“Perfect conditions” means first, sunlight in a clear, perfect sky (despite the clouds and storms that are common in Winter.) Second, there’s just a two-week window; the setting sun is positioned correctly ONLY during the last two weeks of February. Last, there must be water trickling over the falls.

Those with luck and patience will be rewarded with spectacular photos such as these. Hot to try? Learn a few of the basics here.

By howardignatius on Flickr

By daleberts on Flickr

Barcelona Water Tower Brings On The Bling

Attention civic boosters, if your town’s pride-and-joy water tower is decorated with a flat, plain-Jane painted logo or mascot, imagine how something like this could help you hit the big time! Your town’s tower could display a sparkling digital media extravaganza worthy of a glamorous international destination like Barcelona in Spain!

(Don’t fret over funding…a couple of bogus studies by “experts” will easily project millions in expected new development and tourism bucks. Taxpayers LOVE this stuff!)

Just observe the awesomeness of the new media facade on Barcelona’s water tower built by the Cologne-based company ag4 Media Facade GmbH and completed at the end of November 2009. All kidding aside, I really DO believe in the power of art to communicate and this creative display links water infrastructure and media architecture to produce a stunning visual reminder of vital water issues.

From www.dexigner.com,

The “Fontsanta Balance Tower” is part of the newly constructed pumping station built by the Spanish water supply company ATLL and conceals a water reservoir that ensures a constant water pressure balance in Barcelona.

ag4 has created a media skin for the water reservoir. Dynamic visual media blend with the impressive architecture of the building. The light choreography, created by ag4 in close collaboration the architects ruisánchez arquitectes and ATLL, explores the various themes concerning the sustainable management and use of water reserves while simultaneously emphasizing the form and function of the building.