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As far back as the Babylonians and their Hanging Gardens, fountains have been a staple of urban park design. Historic park visitors may fill up their horses' and people's water troughs from the park's fountains. Without an enclosed sewage system, this exacerbated the already high risk of illness. The Romans were the first civilization to use concrete for public water features. They used phosphorous and bitumen found in volcanic ash to create a material similar to Portland cement, making them the first known civilization to do so.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the idea of a decorative fountain acquired popularity again during the Renaissance. While marble and other hard stones were commonly used in the creation of fountains, concrete fountains eventually became more common. The concept that city parks should serve more as leisure spaces rather than practical amenity spaces emerged throughout the Renaissance.
After the 1840s, when the industrial revolution made it possible to pump water throughout cities instead of relying on gravity falls from aqueducts, decorative fountains became a standard feature of urban park planning. Cement fountains in city parks became a regular design piece for urban planners to work around with the introduction of real "Portland cement" in the 1870s.
The Beginning of the 20th Century
However, some "modernist" styled wall fountains, particularly in Chicago, New York, and St. Louis, made their way into park design across the country. It was common practice to utilize wall fountains to create separate sections of parks. It's possible that this also involved landscaping and a focus on creating a sense of harmony between the many parts of a park's aesthetic, as advocated by pioneering urban designers like Leigh Bridge and John Nolan in the early twentieth century.
Many American cities (and American corporations) began erecting fountains in city centers and city parks, including wall fountains and decorative concrete varieties, after Globe War II, when American output was at an all-time high relative to the rest of the world. The majority of the water features were designed to seem like they were from the Renaissance era.
Some of these concrete water features have subsonic sound systems, while others feature abstract geometric forms or integrated lights. Most of the buildings were composed of waterproof concrete. Low-maintenance and simple to care for, sealed concrete fountains are a great focal point for any park. They provide a great place to relax, socialize, feed your hunger, read the paper, play chess, or just watch the world go by in the park.
Use of Concrete Fountains in the Present Day
Many more city planners are beginning to embrace the use of fountains in park design as a result of the public exhibition of monuments such as the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The fountain in Kirby Plaza was featured in the series finale of the successful NBC program Heroes, while the fountain outside of Soldier Field began to run during the opening credits of the now-defunct sitcom Married With Children. Don't forget to check at wall fountains, since they are also quite enjoyable, but a nice concrete fountain is a strong addition for municipal park planning.