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 The movement of water is vast and uncertain. Water can be a soft and tranquil trickle to a powerful and torrential flood.  Therefore the design of a fountain needs to consider the unpredictability of water, and determine how the water needs to flow to suit the fountain. This is where hydraulics comes into play. Hydraulics is what allows the water to flow as the designer wants it to. Hydraulics can be anything from gravity, pressurized pumps, or more recently the movement of computer programmers to design watery special effects for fountains.

Deciding how the water will move in a fountain is often done through studying how water moves in natural elements. Designers may watch how water tumbles over a waterfall, or how it glides through smooth channel, or perhaps how raindrops splatter as they hit a hard surface. They also study the noises the water makes in any of these given instances, to see how to control or create a certain noise for their fountains.

Leonardo da Vinci is the epitome of the Renaissance artist, serving as artist, architect, sculptor, and engineer. He was vastly interested in the forces of nature, and noted his studies on water in his methodical collection of notebooks. Early Italian fountains combined the use of hydraulics and gardening to create beautiful fountain setting based on religious figures or stories.

16th century Italian fountains faced many hydraulic issues, foremost how to get water to the fountain. Therefore the creation of a fountain was not only that of the designer, but of those people who brought water to the fountain, whether in the form of pipes or aqueducts. Unfortunately it is usually only the artist who is remembered for the fountain.

Very few early fountain designers are known today. The services of the Italian Curzio Maccarone were s prized that his name has been passed on. His famous fountain includes the fountain of Tivoli, and the Rometta in Rome. Often early fountains were worked on my many different people, each focusing on a particular aspect, making it hard to determine who the actual artist was.

The creation of hydraulics, as it would come to be called, began in the 1500’s with French designer who wrote a book called “The Principles of Moving Forces”.  This was one of the first accounts of hydraulic and engineering. This book was a wonderful description of how to manipulate water and incorporate air pressure, as well as how heating the water can affect the water display. This book also discusses designs for pumps, ponds, and other water features.

In 1644, a man by the name of Issac wrote a new book called the “New and Rare Inventions in Water features”, based upon previous works but incorporating an array of fountains designs that were both built and not built. This was a testimony passing down the current knowledge of hydraulics from the Renaissance to later generations of designers.

A German architect and fountain creator, Georg Andreas Bockler, also wrote an account of Hydraulics in the 1600’s called “Curious Architecture and the Water Feature.” This was an illustrated worked, containing 200 prints, creating a wonderful visual account of fountain ideas and water effects. This book would be an inspiration to later fountain designers who would use it for their own creative purposes.