Dabney B. on
Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
Image: Moonlite Niagara Falls
About a year ago, my girlfriend and I decided to visit Niagara Falls. I’m American, so of course I visited the American side of the falls. For those of you who have never been, they say that each side of the falls offers a very different experience, and I could definitely understand what they meant while I was visiting. The American side has the actual waterfalls, so you can get up close and personal, feel the misty spray of the water splashing against your face, and feel the roar of water pounding against the rocks.
The Canadian side is a totally different experience, because they can get a full panoramic view of the falls, which are opposite them. I’m certain that seeing things from the land of our maple syrup-loving neighbors would have been breathtaking, but I’m glad that I got to experience the American half.
Without doubt, the single event that captured essence of the American falls better than anything else was the Cave of the Winds. Named after the cave located behind the falls, the Cave of the Winds is an enormous wooden structure, almost like a dock, that allows people to walk down near the foot of the falls – and, indeed, sometimes directly under the streams of water — to get as close to waterfall as humanly possible without getting into lawsuit territory.
Image: Niagara Frontier
I still remember the Cave walkway clearly. The sides of the red planks were covered in stringy green moss. The thunderous water was so loud you had to scream just to talk to you neighbor. Endless buffeting winds would hit you so hard that it nearly took you off your balance, carrying with them plumes of mist that plastered your drastically insufficient raincoat to your skin. I wore one of those ridiculous banana raincoats, and I was soaked for hours after the visit.
If you ever get a chance to visit Niagara Falls, take it. While you’re there, spend the few bucks and the 2 hour wait time (it’s well worth it) to take a walk on the Cave of the Winds. This simple wooden dock structure will afford you an experience unlike any other on earth. Be sure to bring your kids; it’s hard not to love getting wet.
Aquatic architecture. It’s a concept that automatically calls to mind visions of elaborate architectural marvels. What does it make you think of? Floating houses? Skyscrapers that descend into the ocean? Clear glass walls that give inhabitants a view of the ocean depths?
The very fact that aquatic architecture operates in this completely new medium allows architects to design new and revolutionary structures that toy with commonly held perceptions of architecture.
So I can’t quite figure out what persuaded Deric Fourie, Dan Berons, Michael Menuet, and Pablo del Amo to come up with their new Tower City design for the eVolo competition.
I mean, I understand the basic idea of it. They’ve created tall stilt-like structure that jut out of the water surrounding the French city of Marseilles. It makes sense, in a way, because the objective is to make the most use of the aquatic real estate while maintaining its structural integrity. I’m sure that the view from one of the enormous stilts would be quite impressive, but a viewof Tower City leaves much to be desired.
When I look at these pictures, it immediately calls to mind the bottom half of a bridge or maybe the concrete columns that support an interstate clover. If you could just drape an enormous road over the length of it, then it really wouldn’t look out of place.
I find it somewhat hard to believe that a city from France, a country traditionally obsessed with art and beauty, would buy into this design. I hate to be indelicate, but the whole just looks, well, ugly.
Still, I can commend the designers for their philosophy. Building Tower City in the middle of a river can help save land, and using recycled building materials to craft the massive towers is quite commendable. Tower City is quite green, it’s just a tad unattractive, a bit like the color of snot green.
It’s possible to cut a person in half with water. I’m not talking about a frozen sheet of ice sharpened into a blade or a piece of metal that is propelled by water power – I’m talking about a jet of water slicing through you like a guillotine through hot butter.
Cutting through a person is small potatoes for UHP (ultra high pressure) technology. Here’s a clip of a stream of water cutting through 10 inches of steel.
So why am I telling you this? I wanted to make sure you knew about how absurdly powerful high water pressure can be. This helps me set the stage for King Fahd’s Fountain in Saudi Arabia, the world’s tallest fountain.
Here are a few numbers just to familiarize yourself with this record-breaking fountain. This fountain shoots water into the air at 223 miles per hour. Just to put that into perspective, a 747’s take-off speed is only 180 mph. This tremendous velocity allows King Fahd’s Fountain to pump a staggering amount of water into the air. At any given moment, there is an estimated 18 tons of water hanging in the air. The fountain can actually shoot water into the sky at a height greater than the Eiffel Tower (not including the antenna).
The fountain pulls seawater from the nearby Red Sea. It’s no surprise that the fountain uses natural sources of water because, honestly, where else would you get that much water? This salt water presented the engineers with a number of rather interesting challenges, such as how to minimize erosion and how filter out all of the sand and organic material so that it doesn’t gunk up the system.
Somehow, they managed to pull it off, creating a fountain so mind-blowingly massive that the only way to really appreciate it is to stop reading and take a look for yourself.
Look at just about any idyllic landscape painting and you’re bound to see a river, lake, or some other source of water. We consider water to be beautiful, and that is very evident in artwork across cultures and time periods. While portraying water in artwork is pretty common, a much less common sight is water used as a form of art.
Probably the purest form of aquatic art is ice sculpting, because it presents the actual H20 as the art object. Other forms of aquatic art, such as fountains or pools, operate a bit differently because the actual water is not the art object – the shape of the pool that holds the water or the devices that shoot the water into the air are the actual things that artists design. Basically, water is a tricky medium because all you can ever really do is design a thing that manipulates water, rather than shape water itself.
Japanese designers have attempted to overcome this hurdle with their new waterfall fountain designs. These fountains allow water to drip out at certain combinations to create recognizable shapes, such as faces, words, or pictures. They have found a way to use water as the canvas for their artwork.
One of the most interesting features of this fountain is that the messages that they display can be customized to fit any setting. They could just as easily be programmed to display a fluid work of art as they could advertise a new sale at a nearby shopping center.
This feature alone leads me to believe that this type of fountain is bound to catch on in countries other than Japan. Businesses would love to own a fountain that advertises their store and invites passers-by to take a gander. Normally, businesses have to compete and pull every dirty trick in the book to try to get customers to pay attention to their ads. With a fountain like this, customers would love to just stand around and marvel at the beauty of this customizable waterfall fountain.
Dabney B. on
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
I write for an aquatic architecture blog. As you might expect, I see a lot of floating buildings, underwater tunnels, fountains, pools, and pretty much everything else you could possible dream up that somehow combines water with power tools. So, while I may not be the world’s leading expert on aquatic architecture (for that, you may want to check out Koen), I’m certainly familiar with enough stuff that I can add my two cents without sounding too terribly pretentious.
There’s one trend I’ve discovered in aquatic architecture, a sort of spectrum of feasibility. On one side of the spectrum, you have more functionality and less flare, buildings that are designed first to float on water, and any other decoration is an afterthought. On the other side of the spectrum is fanfare and questionable designs. Buildings that fall on this side of the spectrum don’t seem to really focus all that much on feasible designs or the logistics of floating structures at all. For these, it really seems like the designers are just using the whole water aspect as a way to drum up more support and get people interested in it.
Generally speaking, all aquatic buildings I cover tend to fall somewhere on the spectrum. They’re either functional and simple, or stupidly flashy to the point of absurdity, leaving everybody to wonder if it will even float at all.
While the Dutch design company Waterstudio.nl does have a few buildings that push the flashy envelope, what I like about them most is that they seem to prefer the functional design of realistic buildings. They understand that you don’t have to flaunt the whole floating feature. It’s just a tool, a convenient utilitarian aspect that makes it more versatile. I mean, what designer would flaunt the fact that his building has air conditioning, or modern plumbing by incorporating it into his design? Seems a bit silly, doesn’t it?
Well, the guys at Waterstudio.nl are focused on making buildings that work, even if that means that designs are relatively humble. This new design for an office space, as you can see, looks more like a floating trailer home than the floating home of tomorrow. They did spice it up a bit with a stylish green interior and notched walls, but the whole of the design is really quite uninspired.
But here’s the thing: should we care? Should we be bothered that this humble design is so simple that many passers-by might not even realize it’s floating at all? I mean, when you’ve got one of Waterstudio.nl’s buildings, you can be certain that you’ve got a building that won’t sink to the bottom of the ocean. Is it worth it to surrender flare in the name of functionality?
Considering that the human race is just beginning to get really involved in aquatic architecture, I say yes. If you’ve got to learn to crawl before you can walk, then Waterstudio.nl’s structures are great starting points for floating buildings.
Every vacation spot has its own special allure that draws people in. It could be the weather, hills covered with snow, clear beaches, an event, or really anything that people find worthy enough to fork over money for a plane ticket to go see. One of the things that’s always difficult to measure in vacation spots is that subtle, unspoken feeling you get during the vacation. How do you measure the joy on your kids’ faces when they go to Disney World? How do you quantify that sense of exhilarating camaraderie when you get to watch the ball drop in Times Square?
Those sensations are undeniably present, and they’re usually the whole reason for going on a vacation. We say that we’re going to Switzerland to ski, but we never say that we’re going to Switzerland to experience the thrill of zipping down a mountain as fast as a car on the interstate.
Perhaps the sensation that is the easiest to describe and the most sought-out is that sense of solicitude, that feeling of being in a paradise out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around to bother you.
That’s what makes those tropical islands so appealing. Not only do you get to experience the clear water and warm water, but they also allow you to feel like you’re the only person in a hundred miles.
Image: Pix Grove
The creators of Zanzibar’sRock Restaurant fully understand that unspoken sensation of solitude and commit to it fully with their reclusive restaurant.
Just about anyone you meet would love to eat at a restaurant perched on top of a jagged rock that’s out in the middle of a tropical bay. I mean, a restaurant like that sells itself. All you need to do is put a picture of it in a magazine and give directions.
But that’s what makes Rock Restaurant so compelling. The owners don’t advertise the restaurant, and they don’t put up signs pointing people to their joint. They just sit there and wait for people to find them.
Image: Pix Grove
When people do randomly stumble across it, it’s almost like finding a diamond in the rough, a hidden paradise within a paradise. The fact that visitors need to wade, swim, or boat over to the entryway adds to that sense of seclusion. It really makes visitors feel as though they’ve found some long-forgotten building.
Once inside, guests will find a dining experience that is perfectly suitable for a island paradise. A classy yet comfortable atmosphere combined with a tempting selection of local food grilled to order ensure that it will be a dining experience you won’t soon forget.
Pools are popular for a number of reasons – they’re classy, they look pretty, and they’re just plain fun.
Putting aside their pure use value, pools have a sort of allure to them, a kind of subliminal essence that sparks the more primal portions of your brain. They make you want to tear off all your clothes, grab a particularly lovely friend, and dive on in. There’s just something about swimming pools that encourages people to think naughty thoughts.
Hollywood has picked up on that quality and has used it to produce some incredibly sexy pool scenes ever seen on TV. Here are a few of my favorites.
5. Something’s Got to Give
Let’s start things off with a splash with Marilyn Monroe’s skinny dipping scene in Something’s Got to Give. It’s hard to resist this giggling blonde bombshell as she splashes about the pool. When she playfully calls her costar into the pool with her, it’s easy to understand how mythological sirens could have lured sailors to their deaths.
4. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
I’m not exactly sure how walking through a pool while your slinky dress clings to your body is really supposed to make you lose friends, but that’s exactly what Megan Fox tried to do. It doesn’t really work, of course. It only makes her more desirable than ever.
3. Wild Things
The lesbian pool scene was the most memorable part of the movie, and realistically the only reason to see an otherwise mediocre flick. I’ve seen the movie, and I can’t remember a thing about it except for that scene, which was burned into my then-teenage memory. Denise Richards shows off her incredible body while Neve Campbell rock that dark, smokey look.
Perhaps one of the most memorable things about the scene is that the girls can’t seem to figure out if they want to be aggressive or tender, an anxiety that is enhanced by the fact that Kevin Bacon is spying on them from the bushes. That scene is dangerously sexy, almost a complete foil to Marilyn Monroe’s girlish playfulness in Something’s Got to Give.
2. The Arrangement
I’m not much of a fisherman. My dad took me once, and I decided right then and there that it’d be my last time. I just don’t see the appeal to stabbing worms and sitting in a boat for several hours while I wait for nothing to happen. In the classic movie The Arrangement, they manage to make luring swimmers with bait look rather enticing.
1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Not only is it the most famous pool scene ever, it is probably one of the top one-hundred or so most recognizable scenes of all time. The scene seems to fully capture the full absurdity, no-nonsense sexual energy, and the undeniable allure of male daydreaming.
You know those Corona commercials where you see a scantily clad couple chilling by the water’s edge, relaxing and taking in the sun? Those commercials are designed to make us buy beer, and they do that by associating the product with a feeling of calming relaxation.
But why is an image of the ocean so relaxing? Have you ever stopped and wondered why humans find bodies of water so beautiful and calming?
It’s pretty simple, actually. Our species is designed to benefit from the water, so it becomes genetically advantageous for people to be attracted to water. Here are 5 reasons why humans are irresistibly drawn to water.
5. Clams Make Your Brain Grow
The one thing that differentiates us from the animals is the fact that we have huge brains. Because we eat meat, it’s much easier for us to get the fats and proteins that we need to build our giant brains. Crabs, clams, and fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which dramatically increase brain growth.
Image: Bewell Buzz
Over time, humans who preferred seaside locations got better nutrients and stayed healthy, so they passed on that proclivity to their offspring.
4. Fish Literally Makes You Happy
Image: My Fish Tank.net
This aspect is pretty similar to #5 on the list, but different enough to be its own reason. Seafood not only makes your brain bigger, but it also makes your brain happier. Scientists have discovered a direct link between the amount of seafood eaten and depression. Cultures and locales that eat buckets of fish stick will smile a lot more than their cousins farther inland.
3. Humans Aren’t the Only Species to Love Water
Image: The Road Forks
A lot of the advantages that come from water apply to other animals, so bodies of water indicate excellent hunting grounds. Humans who have lived near bodies of water have a much easier time hunting game, particularly around rivers and lakes. It’s much easier to maintain a balanced diet when there are an abundance of mammals, birds, fish, and plants growing at water’s edge that can be harvested for food.
2. Waterfalls are Better than Lakes
I’ve been to Niagara Falls. It’s beautiful beyond any mere description, so I wont even try to describe what it was like. Is there a reason why people fly from all over the world to see Niagara Falls, but most people won’t even cross state lines to see Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, the 2 lakes that compose Niagara Falls?
Yes, actually. The only way to have flowing water is from rainwater, and rainwater is just about the freshest, healthiest source of water available to early humans. Famous poet William Blake once wrote, “Expect poison from the standing water,” which helps to capture this concept. We are drawn to waterfalls because we unconsciously associate waterfalls and flowing water with clean, healthy drinking water.
1. It’s Like Returning Home
I thought about making the #1 reason “Because we need water to live,” but that’s just a little bit too obvious. Let’s stir things up a bit by talking about evolutionary theory.
Bears and dogs are both land mammals, while dolphins and seals are aquatic mammals. Notice a difference between the two? Dolphins and seals are completely smooth, an adaptation that makes it easier to swim in water. In fact, virtually every hairless species of mammal (there are a few exceptions, like the naked mole rat) spent time in water.
So, why are humans virtually hairless compared to other apes? The favored theory now is that our ancestors spent most of their times swimming around. Coincidentally, that also explains why babies know how to swim.
Dabney B. on
Thursday, January 19th, 2012
Yesterday, I featured the Bellagio fountains, which I listed as the top fountain in my list. Number 2 on that list went to Trevi Fountain. I know a lot of people would have guff with the fact that I put a Vegas showpiece above a classic, but classics can’t always win out simply by virtue of being classic. Besides, Rome already has some of the best architectural marvels in the world – they can’t be the best at everything.
Still, there is a good reason why Trevi Fountain is so famous. While it may not be one of the most spectacular fountains on earth, it is certainly one of the most beautiful. And, like everything else in Rome, it’s got several thousand years of history.
The fountain started with the Romans, as in the guys who made slaves fight in the Colosseum, wore togas, and drank wine all day. They didn’t build the actual fountain, but they did build aqueducts to bring water the future home of Trevi Fountain. The aqueduct met the same fate as just about every other ancient structure: foreign invaders came and broke it.
They rebuilt it much later, created a pretty facade, and everybody was happy with the fountain for a time. Back in the 1700s, however, the Pope decided that the fountain just wasn’t lavish enough, so he held a contest to spice up the location. And, a couple decades later, artists and architects built what would prove to be one of the world’s most beautiful fountains.
The sculptures depict Oceanus, god of all waters, and Tritons taming hippocamps, which are sort of like aquatic horses (but not seahorses). The overall theme of the piece is supposed to depict the taming of a harsh and chaotic sea. The Tritons succeeded, evidently, because the water in the fountain is fairly calm.
One of the interesting legends surrounding the fountain is that if you throw a coin into the fountain, it will ensure your return to Rome, which makes it an instant tourist attraction. While most people don’t really believe such a superstition, it does make the fountain 3,000 euros richer every day. Not only is the world’s most beautiful fountain, but it’s also the wealthiest. At an estimated yearly salary of $1,095,000, this fountain makes my bank statement look rather unimpressive.
Dabney B. on
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
Vegas is one of the most instantly recognizable cities on earth. Just about every metropolis has a region that holds all of the cities skyscrapers, but Vegas is a bit different. Instead of commercial buildings, all of the most prominent Vegas buildings are hotels that line the strip, each with their own set of bright colors and flashing lights designed to catch the eye.
The Bellagio doesn’t have a giant, brightly-lit Eiffel Tower replica, a golden sphinx, or a miniature version of the Empire State Building. What it does have, however, is an enormous pool just off the main road through the Strip, which holds one of the world’s most famous fountain shows.
Of all of the things to see in Vegas, the Bellagio fountains are one of the sights that stick with people the most. Why is that? It’s hard to say, really. It might have something to do with the fact that that the fountain is considerably classier than the neon billboards of so many other hotels. It might simply be a product of masterfully choreographed lights, music, and fountains. Whatever the case, the Bellagio fountains are a must-see stop for any Vegas tourist.
I’ve been to Vegas. I walked the Strip, I gambled, I went to a show, ate a 5-star restaurant, and I went up the Eiffel Tower (I didn’t ride New York’s roller coaster, though). I tried to do as much touristy stuff as possible to take in all of Vegas during my short stay there. With the notable exception of turning a $1 bill into $100 at the black jack tables, I would have to say that the Bellagio fountains were the most memorable part of my trip. Exaggeration aside, they really are worth seeing.
With an impressive music list and shows every half hour from 3-7 PM, and every 15 minutes from 7-12 PM, it is unlikely that you will ever see the same show twice in a single day. Invariably, as the sun sets, people begin gathering at the edge of the Bellagio pool. I’ve often heard that the best way to view the fountains is to see a couple shows, and then watch another show with your back to the fountains so that you can watch the expressions of viewers. I would have liked to try that out when I was there, but I had a hard time tearing my gaze away from the spectacle.
So, why have I spent such little time describing the actual fountains, themselves? This time, I’m going to let videos do the talking.