The Design

The design of the fountain centres around a flow of water directed in a downward spiral by a series of nine discs attached to, and arranged around, a central mast. The discs and the flow of water are interrupted in turn by one of three spherical rotors in the ratio of one rotor to three discs (this ratio is derived from the morse signal for j, which is . – – -) the rotor (whose form reflects the current airport logo) realize the potential kinetic energy of the water by spinning and directing the water to the next series of discs in the sequence, demonstrating the continual interplay between different forms of energy which became the focus for Joule’s research.

The above process is repeated until the water is deposited in the catchment pool at the base of the fountain. This contains six circular plates arranged symmetrically around the centre mast. These are supported horizontally at the pool’s water level and display images taken from Joule’s entries in his laboratory notebooks and manuscripts, bestowing the fountain with ciphers and signs that bear the character and personality of their originator.

The images are laser cut into the disc surfaces which are circumscribed by tubular spray rings that frame and energize them by emitting a low outward directed plume spray. During the hours of darkness the elements of the mast and catchment pool are illuminated from below with light. The mast and its components have white light directed upon them by upward facing spotlights contained in a platform ring located around its base.

The plates in the catchment pool each have a blue light source located directly beneath them in the pool floor which serves to illuminate both the laser cut images and the spray plume. Whilst the disc itself works as alight baffle and stencil.

Our Involvement

We were instrumental in the design process and co-research of the fountain together with consultant water feature engineers.

We created the fountain virtually, in order to test the aesthetics of the structure in the environment it belongs in, and to create a technical blueprint for costing and building the fountain. The ability to visually interpret the transformation of a particular ‘site’ and to see how a piece visually resides within the surrounding environment using a three-dimensional computer visualisation had a considerable effect on the design.

The visualisations involved building the fountain, base, water areas, kinetic involvement and the surrounding area around the fountain (Manchester International Airport and it’s landscape). The still images, videos and VRML information we produced were invaluable and extremely supportive for the presentation of the Joules fountain design to Manchester Airports board of Directors.

We were also able to do virtual tests of the fountain working, including the spinning rotors. This ability to predict the waters descent is crucial in any fountain design and for this design project imparticular. Thus we constructed a simulation of various natural forces which would normally have an influence on waters direction when falling, and applied alternative elements for example, various strengths, speeds and turbulence of wind. Whereas experimenting with a scale model would be time consuming, costly, and in terms of weather uncontrolled and unpredictable.

All our shots have the correct lighting whether it is day or night. We can display the fountain from any angle, including the daily view and aspect of the fountain for employees and travellers. This was achieved using animation in an effective human perspective and time-based manner.

3D visualisation in a design project is a cost effective and safe substitute for scale construction.