Monday, July 13, 2009

Twenty-first century water theatres..

I have been writing about some seventeenth century water theatres, see my old post which mentions the Villa Aldobrandini at Frascati, and I decided to google the term to see what came up *cough*to procrastinate*cough*. Anyway, at the top of the results was a spectacular twenty-first century example.

A proposal for the city of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands by Grimshaw Architects. The theatre is meant to create large quantities of distilled water to help the island move towards self-sufficiency in renewable energy and fresh water. Like several of my 17th century examples this theatre takes it design cues from the classical Roman amphitheatre with a semi-circle of stepped seating, and a magnificent wall of water in place of the traditional scenery (called the scaeanae frons). It celebrates water in a place where water is scarce, as did those created at Frascati, a town that had been virtually cut off from a proper water supply since th Roman aqueducts failed. The show of water is made all the more spectacular because of the scarceness of water. In this case though the water is for public use rather than simply to celebrate the power and influence of individual patron (the inhabitants of Frascati often found themselves cut off from water when the waterworks of papal villas were switched on).

A detail showing the theatre and cascade of the the Villa Aldobrandini in a view by Matthias Greuter of the papal villas at Frascati, 1620, image via Catena Digital Archive of Historic Gardens.

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