A fountain is a decorative reservoir used for discharging water. It is also a structure that jets water into the air for a decorative or dramatic effect.
The word “fountain” derives from the Latin fons meaning source or spring.
Fountains have been an important element in the design of gardens and public spaces since ancient times.
An early example is preserved in the carved Babylonian basin (c. 3000 BC) found at Tello, the ancient Lagash in Mesopotamia. An Assyrian fountain discovered in the gorge of the Comel River consists of basins cut in solid rock and descending in steps to the stream. Small conduits led the water from one basin to the other, the lowest of which was ornamented by two rampant lions in relief.
The ancient Romans began using decorative fountains in 6 BC, most of which were bronze or stone masks of animals and local and mythological heroes. The Romans had an elaborate system of aqueducts that provided the water for the many fountains that were throughout each city. By 98 AD, Rome had been nicknamed the “city of fountains” having 9 aqueducts, 39 monumental fountains, and 591 public basins.
In Nepal there were public drinking fountains at least as early as 550 AD. They are called dhunge dharas or hitis. They consist of intricately carved stone spouts through which water flows uninterrupted from underground water sources. They are found extensively in Nepal and some of them are still operational. Construction of water conduits like hitis and dug wells are considered as pious acts in Nepal
In the early Middle Ages in Europe, ornamental and architectural treatment of fountains passed out of use – wells furnished the greater part of the necessary water.
The Renaissance in Italy began a new phase of fountain design in which sculpture became prominent. A common type was a sequence of circular or polygonal basins on a vertical support topped by a fountain figure from which water spouted. Leonardo da Vinci designed fountains.
During the following period of the Italian Baroque, fountains became complex compositions of basins, sculpture, and water display. Rome is noted for its many fountains of baroque design.
In Catholic Europe, the Pope also became a benefactor for public fountains. The most famous is the Trevi Fountain in Rome, where three popes contributed to its construction until it was completed in 1762. During the 17th and 18th centuries, fountains became more elaborate, where cascading features and sunken fountains helped areas that could not easily utilize gravity for fountain water pressure to also benefit from fountains.
In the early 19th century, London and Paris built aqueducts and new fountains to supply clean drinking water to their exploding populations. Napoleon Bonaparte started construction on the first canals bringing drinking water to Paris, fifteen new fountains, the most famous being the Fontaine du Palmier in the Place du Châtelet, (1896–1808), celebrating his military victories.
By the late 19th and 20th centuries, fountains lost their function as primary drinking water supplies in many cities. They largely became decorative and purely as symbols of civic pride. New innovations in the 19th century included illuminating fountains using electricity, while steam pumps provided a more reliable energy supply to move water.
Musical fountains create a theatrical spectacle with music, light and water, usually employing a variety of programmable spouts and water jets controlled by a computer.
The fountain called Bit.Fall by German artist Julius Popp (2005) uses digital technologies to spell out words with water. The fountain is run by a statistical program which selects words at random from news stories on the Internet. It then recodes these words into pictures. Then 320 nozzles inject the water into electromagnetic valves. The program uses rasterization and bitmap technologies to synchronize the valves so drops of water form an image of the words as they fall. According to Popp, the sheet of water is “a metaphor for the constant flow of information from which we cannot escape.”
King Fahd’s Fountain also known as the Jeddah Fountain in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is the tallest fountain of its type in the world. The fountain jets water to a maximum height of 260 metres (853 ft).
The largest fountain measures 7,327 m² (78,867 ft² 25 in²) and was achieved by Nakheel (UAE), in Dubai, UAE on 22 October 2020. The water fountain is named “The Palm Fountain” and is designed to show the harmony between the universe and the earth. The change of color and brightness is combined with the dancing, jumping and bursting of the water combined with music.The circle of nozzles represents the planets in the universe while the LED lights scattered around represent the starry constellations of the universe.
There are more than 1,000 fountains on the 4.8 ha (12 acre) artificial lake at the Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.