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Friday, 30 September 2011

180° of Light show

photo by SteveRSVR
180° of Light is a laser installation linking water towers in Rothwell, Desborough and Corby in the British Midlands with laser beams to form a triangle, the alchemical symbol of water. The project is a part of a county-wide series of site specific artworks on  Northamptonshire's rivers, canals, waterways and water towers. There has already been an installation on Northamptonshire's Oxford canal and there will be a further installation at Sywell Reservoir in October. NESTA fellow Jo Fairfax and FLOW manager Graham Callister came up with the idea. Visible from the A14, the project is part of Igniting Ambition Festival and the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The lasers shine from 7.30 to 9.30 pm until 2nd October 2011. Its website gives a raison d'etre:

This site-specific artwork highlights the architectural beauty, science and necessity of water towers in today’s society. Among their many uses, water towers provide pressure to maintain the safety of the water supply, without which water may not spray from a tap with sufficient FLOW.

By using several strikingly bold lasers, this site-specific, large scale installation produces a formal dynamic between the imposing circular drums of the water towers and the stunning, elevated triangle of light which unites them. Dominating the Northamptonshire landscape, 180° of Light encourages conversations both of architectural form and journey.

The artist, Jo Fairfax, described the installations:

“Creating a giant laser triangle hovering in the sky makes me smile. Each water tower forms the corner of the laser triangle creating a conversation in form - the circle of the water drum with the triangle of light. The journey of light is evident and the journey of water is implied, another conversation. The moving striated visual effect created as the laser light breaks down over distance implies a sense of journey. The water tower drum containing water held high, water reader to enter and exit, implies a journey. The two meet either side of the water drum. Both dynamic, one in its speed and break down, the other in its potential and pressure. Water and light, like siblings with a story to tell”.

Key funders included Arts Council England, Legacy Trust UK, Northamptonshire County Council, Anglian Water and Breath of Fresh Air, East Midlands.

More information about FLOW

BBC news slideshow

Here's map of the laser 'field' to aid viewing:

View flow towers in a larger map

BWTAS context:

Illuminating water towers has a long history and was commonplace when water towers were novel and objects of civic pride. The Thorpe Hamlet water tower in Norwich was illuminated for a year to commemorate George V's silver jubilee in 1935. A couple of generations later, illumination of towers was used as way of reasserting their monumental quality and renewing civic pride as part of regeneration schemes. Cranhill Arts Project in Glasgow illuminated their local tower a vibrant green with white spotlights and nearby the Craigend water towers were illuminated as part of Glasgow's reign as the European City of Culture. The city council's lighting strategy webpage asserts: "Good lighting helps to increase vitality and improve ambience. It contributes to a sense of identity and place, makes for a safer, friendlier environment and also supports and complements other regeneration initiatives."

Friday, 23 September 2011

Tower hunting in British Columbia

While on vacation in British Columbia this month I was given a driving tour of the sights of the city of Victoria. When we stopped at Government House intending to eat our sandwiches in its splendid gardens, the cooler we had brought along was empty. The sandwiches had been made but left behind on the kitchen counter; the cook thinking the driver would pack them, the driver thinking the cook had packed them. While we made do with the dessert, my companions asked if there was anything in particular I wanted to stop and look at. A few minutes earlier I had glimpsed a water tower atop a distant hill so I said, if they didn't mind, that I'd like to take a look. "But", I warned them, "towers are shy creatures. If you go looking for them, they tend to run away..." 

After stopping at the marvellous outdoor retailer Mountain Equipment Cooperative, we surmised from our map it must lie in the region of the Craigdarroch Castle so we headed there. Navigating the one-way system we came to the coal mine owner's mansion - scene of a legendary and lengthy family dispute - which is now a museum and walked around outside but were unable to see the tower from this vantage point. "It saw us coming" I told my companions. The 'castle', though imposing, is more a sandstone pastiche of Scottish laird and Disney fairytale but it was impressive that every window, including sash ones, and each door was carved to follow the curve of the turrets, a 'hang the cost' detail but with admission costing $13 pp, I have no doubt their upkeep is expensive.

The mansion is in the area called Rockland which was once Victoria's 'Nob Hill' and now an open-top English bus plys guided tours pointing out the mock-Tudor piles of other migrants who made their fortunes in lumber, furs, coal and construction in this last frontier and bastion of the British Empire. Though we couldn't see it, I suspected the elusive tower must be nearby as we were on a plateau and the tower must have been constructed to serve all these grand homes. We set off down the hill to backtrack to where I had first seen the tower, hoping that then we could then turn around and stalk towards it like a game of Grandmother's Footsteps. 

Perhaps it felt like only playing peek-a-boo with us because as we drove away, we suddenly saw it looming over some houses. It was then a case of my jumping out with a camera to capture a view and try to find a way to walk to its base while my companions waited in the car, as they did not want to enrich the city with a parking fine nor be an accessory to any inadvertent trespass. Besides, a large party would likely scare it off again. It was a process of elimination in going up successive driveways, each tantalisingly appearing to lead to the base, to find the one which its attendants must have used to reach the door.

The tower sits rather dilapidated and unused in the garden of a old mansion which is now apparently a multiple rental/condo. Given that access to the tower must have some easement over the driveway, I ran up to the base to log the tower on my GPS device. We then quickly took our leave to visit one of Victoria's many coffee shops, the boho-style Tooks on Cook we had passed earlier. Here very satisfactory sandwiches and slice of quiche with a salad was not as elusive.

View MEC to tower expedition in a larger map

Tower Location: Laural Lane, Victoria B.C. Canada.
Built: 1908. Decommissioned: 2000 
Height: 33.22 m.
Capacity: 412,330 litres. 

The tower is an unreinforced 25.4 cm. thick concrete cylinder of 6.71 m. inside diameter, 21.34 m. high, supporting a 11.89 m. high water tank of equal diameter. This is a balancing reservoir. The tower can be clearly seen from the ocean and has been used as an navigation aid by small craft.

The 128-foot water tower was built by the famous contractor Henry Kaiser. In 1962, to commemorate the centenary of Victoria, the tower was topped by a 22-foot tall neon flame, which burned for over 25 years.

From Victoria Heritage Foundation

 With Victoria’s population growing rapidly, the city water supply was quickly becoming inadequate, and 1909 saw construction of a 100,000-gallon concrete water tower. This must have seemed unsightly, among the villas and Garry oak meadows at one of the highest points of Rockland, but, along with the Smith Hill Reservoir, it constituted a stop-gap project to supply Victorians with water until the new system at Sooke Lake was built. The area around the water tower was known locally as Observatory Hill.

It featured a large, Queen Anne house called Observatory Villa with a 3-storey tower and a small observatory, which was built by amateur astronomer Oregon Columbus Hastings in 1890 (915 St. Charles Street, demolished). By 1903, the lane leading to the observatory had been officially named Observatory Hill.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Water tower film wanted by TV programme


This programme will be transmitted on Thursday January 12, 20102 at 9pm on Channel 4.


Television programme "The Restoration Man” on Channel 4 are desperately looking for film footage shot between the 1900s-1930s showing  any 19th century Water towers across Britain. Their programme is focussing on the Forge Lane Water Tower in Congleton, Cheshire but notwithstanding finding any film of that, they would like footage that shows the interior of any 19th century water tower with it’s water pump in action etc. 
Forge Lane
Some possible towers could be:

  1. Court Lodge Water Tower. Wrotham, Kent. 
  2. The Round House, Perth, Tayside, 1832 
  3. Everton Water Tower, Liverpool, Merseyside, 1854 
  4. Internally Flanged cast iron tank, Wivenhoe water tower, Essex, 1901 
  5. Flaybrick water tower, Birkenhead, Merseyside, 1865 
  6. Friday Bridge water tower, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, 1894 
  7. Westgate water tower, Lincoln, 1910 
  8. Lymm water tower, Cheshire.
  9. Horncastle Road Water Tower, Boston, Lincolnshire, 1905 
  10. Hartlepool water towers, Cleveland 
  11. Balkerne Tower, Colchester, Essex, 1882 
  12. Winshill water tower, Burton on Trent, Staffs, 1907 
  13. Rockwell Green water tower, Wellington, Somerset, 1885
If you have any information about film footage please contact:

Jane Elizabeth Higgs
Archive Research
The Restoration Man
Tiger Aspect
0207 544 1649

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Zandvoort towers

From this...












to This.

During World War II, our water towers were not attacked by enemy action, as we now know, the Luftwaffe used these landmarks as aid to navigation - the Dutch were not so lucky. The elegant, reinforced concrete tower on the left, by architect J. van Poelgeest and dating from 1912, was blown up on 17th September 1943, by the occupying forces.

A new 48 metre high water tower that has a brick façade covering its reinforced concrete structure, was erected between 1949 and 1951 from a design by J. Zietsma. It was originally conceived as a round tower but ended up being an octagonal. The tower with two tanks with a total volume of 209,000 gallons came into service in 1952.

Images of construction of the reinforced concrete tower may be found here. The new tower is located at 52º 22' 13" North, 4º 31' 30" East, the old tower was located about ¼ mile to the North.

Any body who has more information on these towers, please leave a comment.