Playful Water: Fun Fountains

I presented the model studies of my four playful water spots in Eindhoven to the Gementee (Mayor Office). There I received feed back and information from Wil van der Schijndel. In the Province of Brabands, the water in fountains has to be of potable water quality, or there has to be extensive signage indicating that it is not drinking water. This makes water fountains in Eindhoven expensive and so limits there number in the city. These rules vary from province to province.

The Mayor’s Office considers water in public space has an active social function like a camp fire: it allows people to share a common point of focus without the tension of giving each other direct attention. They say they function as gathering spots and landmarks in the city.

Making a scale model of the site:

This playful water spot is right in the middle of the city centre. It was especially designed to act as a water fence so that pedistrians would not walk acorss and block the bikes entering and leaving the bike garage. It was designed by FUKSAS in 2010 and built by FEHRES bv.

Re-design 1: Homo Ludens

I research theories of Human playfulness, and social behaviour and ended up picking Joan Huizinga. He was a historian and a cultural theorist with an anthropological theory called Homo Ludens: Man the Player.


Johan Huizinga identifies 5 characteristics of play:

1. Play is free, is in fact freedom.
2. Play is not “ordinary” or “real” life.
3. Play is distinct from “ordinary” life both as to locality and duration.
4. Play creates order, is order. Play demands order absolute and supreme.
5. Play is connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained from it.

I translated Huizinga’s 5 characteristics into 5 new design criteria and use them to re-design my playful water spots.
1. The design concept has to allow user input.
2. It has to create a new context/stage/ ‘other’ space.
3. It has to use temporary architecture and temporary programs to avoid becoming ‘ordinary’.
4. Users must intuitively understand how to play.
5. The game space is free, open and public.


In the Re-design, User input is in a console that can turn a water fence on and off around a seating area. This opening and closing mechanism can be incorporated into many existing children’s chase games.

Re-design 2: Age/Interactivity Gradient

I interviewed the public about their opinions of my four playful water spots in Eindhoven, as well as what playful water means for them. In the data I collected from this process a pattern emerged between the age of the public and how much interactivity they want from playful water. To make playful water for the public ages ‘0 – 99’ I re-designed the 4 playful water spots to literally have a gradient of interactivity.

In the Re-design, the Age/Interactivity is realized in the speed that the fountains turn on and off, as well as their heights. So the first fence stays on and off for 5 seconds each time, the second, for 4 seconds, the third for 3, and so on. Each time the interval is shorter and the risk of getting wet is higher.

Re-design 3: Combining Design Elements

This model takes the location away, and allows me to cherry-pick the most interesting design elements from the previous 2 re-designs regardless of context. Here the fountains are laid in concentric circles. The outer ring of fountains creates a rotating wall of fountains that circulates relatively slowly. The second ring rotates a little faster, and the third faster still.



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