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Fountain Throwies
Helmut Smits


Here's a lovely piece of intervention by the Dutch artist Helmut Smits. A minor act but profoundly marvelous.

Smits briefly notes that his street fountain spurts via a small water pump. But how small is it, we wondered. How complex are its wirings and how great is its energy requirement? One certainly wishes that it could be mass produced, bought by the dozens, or at least hackable from easily procured cheap parts, a craft project whose step-by-step instructions can be downloaded from Instructables, like LED Throwies. When the rains do come and fill up pot holes or shallow pedestrian depressions, you can sow little fountains everywhere, adding a bit of playfulness to the concrete playgrounds of weary city-dwellers. It's Banksy meets Salomon de Caus hydro-graffiti.

Should you want to add a subversive underlayer, you could say that at the same time it highlights the deplorable condition of urban infrastructure, that pouring in billions of dollars into these pot holes isn't going to solve the problem. The collapse is perpetual.


On fountains

14 COMMENTS —
  • Crusty the Clown
  • March 4, 2009 at 9:09:00 PM CST
  • Your notion to deploy these on a large scale is highly disturbing and offensive on so many levels.

    To think of all the discarded lithium batteries littering the streets and ending up in landfills poisoning the water.

    And for what? A few moments of gratification?

    It's schizophrenic really, cause I imagine that you go home and eat organic greens under your high efficiency bulbs.


  • graham
  • March 5, 2009 at 8:43:00 AM CST
  • wow - touched a nerve there, I'd say ...


  • Alexander Trevi
  • March 5, 2009 at 3:16:00 PM CST
  • Didn't realize kinetic energy is solely the provenance of lithium batteries.


  • Crusty the Clown
  • March 5, 2009 at 4:57:00 PM CST
  • Really? You have got to be joking...

    The 'Instructables' link provided for throwies specifies lithium batteries. Or are you proposing some sort of divine power source that has no impact?

    Miniature solar panels, plastic pumps, wires, resins - none degrade and will ultimately end up in a landfill, or better yet, floating in perpetuity as a small part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

    In the end it is simply littering. Are these values that landscape architects should champion?


  • Alexander Trevi
  • March 5, 2009 at 6:00:00 PM CST
  • Clearly you've never heard of elastic potential energy. Clearly you are not aware of the resourcefulness of places like Instructables, Make and Craft. You show no faith in the ingenuity of the DIY community. Clearly you have shut yourself to the power of innovative thinking. You are small of mind. Your lack of imagination and your cynical stance is disgusting. You show no capacity to be astonished, to be surprised, to be marveled. You only see a big, heaping, eternal landfill of plastic shit. You are disturbed and offended only because you let yourself to be so.

    But I'm really hoping that I'm completely wrong about you.


  • Anonymous
  • March 5, 2009 at 10:26:00 PM CST
  • hey, caricatures, listen to yourselves.


  • Adrian
  • March 7, 2009 at 4:26:00 PM CST
  • Well, even though graffiti research lab does accompany this post with a link on how and where to recycle lithium batteries, I think the point about potential waste is a valid one. However, I also think we can't deny the importance of ideas that provide democratic, grassroots methods for adding wonder to our sometimes oppressive urban environments. That said, the real reason for my post is to say that we need to maintain a higher level of dialog than accusing and name-calling. I assume if we're reading this blog in the first place, it's because we care about our environment and want to make a difference. So let's try to be constructive here.

    By the way, love the blog. Long time reader, first-time poster. Keep it up.


  • Anonymous
  • March 11, 2009 at 7:26:00 PM CDT
  • This is cute, but in the spirit of taking things to the next level, I'm sealing a sump pump and car battery in a old oil drums and dropping them at the beach.


  • Anonymous
  • March 12, 2009 at 1:20:00 PM CDT
  • Hahaha, let's make it everlasting and use nuclear power...


  • Felix
  • March 12, 2009 at 5:49:00 PM CDT
  • crusty: maybe people could pick up their fountains after the water had gone. I think the idea is so cute that theft of fountains would be a greater problem than littering

    also, in the photo the road is not tarmac, but brick paving. so maybe in this case you could lay a pipe from the puddle to the road, between the bricks. then lift a few bricks up in the road and install a device that can capture the force generated by cars driving over it. store that energy in a spring or piston that will allow the 'fountain' to run for 5 minutes or so


  • Anonymous
  • March 17, 2009 at 9:28:00 PM CDT
  • Felix- I think that's exactly the type of ingenuity Alex was talking about. Great idea.


  • imhkki
  • April 8, 2009 at 3:39:00 AM CDT
  • nice fountain on the street :)


  • Anonymous
  • May 6, 2009 at 10:39:00 PM CDT
  • how could the poetry of this gesture be eclipsed by its mechanization? what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.


  • pea
  • July 26, 2009 at 5:01:00 PM CDT
  • "To think of all the discarded lithium batteries littering the streets and ending up in landfills poisoning the water."

    Write this down. Lithium batteries DO NOT POLLUTE.


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