Playful Water: Water Wheel

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 site is a fountain that was designed by Walter Brune in the architect of the Heuvel Galerie. The terraces around the fountain attract a lot of people that come to  enjoy the sight and the sound of the fountain. It acts as a gathering place: literally a communal watering hole. Here we can see that contemporary fountain takes the place of the fresh water spring in the public psyche.

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 directing the fountain like a water gun turret. The game space is the range of the fountain; anyone that enters into range is fair game. It also acts a stage space where the audience are the people sitting at the terrace.

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 literally as the “splash zone” gradient created by a single powerful fountain. The floor tiles and bencehs reflect this with a colour  gradient pattern that communicates the interactivity gradient of the “splash zone” to the public.

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 central fountain is controlled by a wheel attached to the pillar. This central control can only be reached by entering into the splash zone. The wheel controls the velocity of the water, which as a result of the spinning propeller head on the top of the fountain, also controls how far the water arches and how fast it rotates. When the water rotates fast enough a water tent is created: a sealed bubble of flowing water.



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