Friday, 28 March 2008

Water Marks

I need help. (Muted cyber-chorus of agreement.) Why is it that I find water towers,and I have to say these white-painted ones, so appealing? And at the same time find wind turbines so unattractive to the eye? I found this one on my fenland tour whilst out picking-off candidates for Classic Constructs, a new book for later on in the year. It sits out in the bleak landscape at Newton, where Cambridgeshire narrows to a point up near The Wash, a simple unadorned landmark structure that has enormous appeal for its functional simplicity. Coupled with the fact that thought was given to its placement here by planting a stand of silver birch and willow around it. Water towers are necessary where natural gradients are insufficient to maintain a good head of water, and, like all things, the acceptability of their presence in isolated countryside comes down to design. There are stunning examples- the landmark towers of Ravensden in Bedfordshire, the Wellsian science fiction Mappleton out on the Plain of Holderness. You probably wouldn't want one looking over your back garden- the concrete and glass Haddenham comes to mind- but necessity can still be the mother of inventive design. I suppose it comes down to taste, like good old-fashioned tap water versus over-priced 'eau' run-off from your local volcano.


Diplomate said...

Good - I'm glad you're sorting out the connection between the duke of bedford's anglian land grab and his incredibly forward thinking water distribution network in North Beds. That tower at Ravensden is a whopper and I'm pleased to report that i share your enthusiasm. Tavistock, of course, is the happy beneficiary of these great "systems" and I love the bespoke iron-work liberally distributed around the streets covering inspection chambers, cisterns, sewers, and valve housings like auctioneers' lot numbers laying claim to sundry articles and re-assuring us with a sense of order laid out by the arristocracy for our benefit and loyalty.

Philip Wilkinson said...

A noble tower indeed. Perhaps you like water towers because at their best they're individuals, the creations of engineers for whom the challenge of holding heavy, liquid stuff up in the air inspired interesting and visually various designs. Wind turbines, in my limited experience of them, tend to look the same.

TIW said...

I know what you mean. In Munich there's a couple of cement silos which have an unquantifiable, untilitarian beauty. Coming from the south Pennines, I haven't encountered many water towers though I am familar with wind turbines. I like them. We've often sat outside the Dog and Gun in Oxenhope as the shadows lengthened, watching the windmills swim across the moor.

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Jon Dudley said...

Our American friends have a good line in water towers...not strictly towers I particularly admire those 'coolie hat' covered water tanks siwth wooden insulated sides that are to be seen across the New York skyline. The prefabricated zinc or galvaised steel water pumping fantail winmills also appeal; we used to see 'em over here but they're quite rare now. Imagine one of those arriving mail order.

Jon Dudley said...

I must remember to spill chock. Sorry.

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