Water fountains, like architecture and works of art, began as abstract ideas in a designers mind. These ideas for water fountains originate in the mind and then assume visual shape, often in a almost unidentifiable form. Since the earliest days of fountain design, artists and architects have functioned as the designers of most water fountains. They and the sculptors they employ often use speculative sketching as a method for exploring and developing design possibilities. Despite the dances and technology, including the use of computer aided design, minivan designers continue to describe their initial ideas by drawing and sketching, employing the medium to elaborate on ideas from their first initial concept to their final realization as water features. These sketches and drawings are the tangible traces of those initial creative thoughts. In the art world, drawings have long been recognized and appreciated as a traditional part of artistic expression. This is also true of architectural design. There exist many surviving drawings for some of the world’s most famous and important fountains, providing important insights into the fountain design process. For instance, in the drawings behind Rome’s Trevi fountain, completed in 1762, we discover many of the complexities involved in making these fountains. It is rare, however, for all the documents of a fountains design process to be preserved so one can track the process step-by-step from start to final fountain. Occasionally, in the later stages of designing a fountain, an architect may also choose to employ multiple dimensional models or scale representations to work out a fountains precise details or overall proportions and structural relationships.
Occasionally, fountain design drawings astonish their viewers with genuine simplicity. A perfect example of this is the simple red chalk outlines and shading Bernini put to paper while envisioning the Triton fountain for the Piazza Barberini in Rome. The surviving paperwork from 1643, firmly accountable to Bernini’s own hand, is a vital clue to revealing the original intentions for a fountain that was to revolutionize Italian fountain design. This drawing, and the resultant fountain, represents a seminal moment and an important example of fountain design. The sculptural forms of the Triton fountain, suggest a liberating since the moment, so much so that instead of the statues being static and solid, they seem to interact playfully with the water which surrounds them. The Triton fountain was built for Pope Urban VIII, and was a manifestation of the type of fountains that the transform a routine Roman square into an eloquent glorification of the power of God and the State. Tritons are often very common ornamental features of fountains; however, this Triton fountain that we discuss here infuses a convincing figure into the mythological creature, who is summoned by Neptune to make the seashell saying mightily set even the most distant turbulent waves would heed the command to restore calm. Perched atop a distinctive scallop shell and held aloft by the flipping tales of four Dolphins, the kneeling Triton blows his forceful sound directly upward, where water visualizes colossal sound. In its day, the Triton fountain was the highest shooting the fountain in Rome. As all the major fountains of the day in Rome, the source of the water was the Acqua Felice.