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Fountains Throughout the Ages – Part 2

Though fountains were functional before, in the modern age advanced technology allowed for much more diversity and beauty. These structures also continued to be showcases for wealth and advances in design. Keep reading to find out more about the history of fountains in the 19th century and beyond.

Fountains in the 19th century

The dawn of the 19th century saw a rise in population. This population had new needs and so new innovations in fountain design also had to come about. Large cities like Paris built new fountains as well as aqueducts so that the public could have clean water. Napoleon was one of the first French leaders to bring drinking water to his population, and he constructed both canals and fountains. Although the latter were functional, they also served to celebrate his victory in war, especially Fontaine du Palmier, which is also known as the Fountain of Victory.   

Technological advances

For many centuries the average person would have to get water from a public source and bring it to their homes. After the steam pump was invented, a fountain’s water could be pumped upward and into houses. In London’s Trafalgar square steam pumps from a well would bring water to the center of the city. The illuminated fountain was another huge development in the history of these public works of art. In the beginning, gas lamps were used to light them up at night, ensuring that people could still enjoy the fountains all day long. However, as early as 1884 there were electric lights used to shine through water for an impressive effect.

Fountains of the 20th century and the present day

In the 20th century, there was no longer any need for drinking water to come from fountains. As a result, they became a type of art and decoration for cities. At the beginning of the century, several large fountains were built for international expositions. In the United States fountain designs around this time were mostly copies of European styles and models. One of these is the 1933 statue of Prometheus in front of New York’s Rockefeller Center. It is based on the Greek myth of a god who stole fire from heaven and gave it to humankind. The statue in the fountain shows his punishment, being chained to a rock forever.

As art and design evolve, so have fountains and what they can do. Computers have allowed fountain creators to control the light, water, and even music in their creations. Many contemporary fountains incorporate digital videos or use digital technology to spell out letters.

The Crown Fountain in Chicago is one example of the use of technology in fountain design. It’s part art installation, part showcase of what heights fountains can go to with the right imagination behind them. Made of two glass towers, the face of this fountain changes often – literally. Faces of city residents are projected onto the screens, and water shoots from their faces into a reflecting pool.