Written by Ken Martin, founding principal, Aquatic Design & Engineering, Inc. (ADE)
In 1991, I was contacted by Fred Halback of the landscape architecture firm Herbert Halback to participate with them in creating and designing a major water feature that would forever be a centerpiece at the front doorstep of the City of Orlando.
I can’t describe the honor I felt to be instrumental in creating such a unique water feature located in front of the [then] brand new Orlando City Hall. As a young child, I came to Orlando in the early 1950’s and can remember the decorations that became tradition in downtown, such as the famous Christmas star placed high over the main street, Orange Avenue, each winter season. Now a fountain that I helped create would be a testament to our engineering talents and create a significant memory to our families, friends, and loved ones in Orlando, and to the countless millions of viewers that travel through town.
The feature we envisioned together was designed to replicate a Florida thunderstorm—something with which anyone living in Orlando is quite familiar. During the initial creative project meeting, Fred challenged us to design a feature that will forever be reflective of our community—something fun, something striking, but most of all, something that will stand the test of time.
We considered what elements and features make up a thunderstorm: obviously, rain droplets come from clouds, that are then followed by rainbows to give us all faith and hope of what the future shall deliver. This overall picture gave us our direction. Our team was challenged with determining the types of materials that would last decades while also creating a feature that showcased the artistry of rainbows, simulated clouds, flashes of lightning, and fun rain droplets and spray. Another challenge was overcoming the adjacent, problematic noise of cars and trucks just a few feet away on Orange Avenue. Eventually, we elected to mask the traffic noise with an arrangement of waterfalls, foamy-thick plumes of vertical water elements, and, of course, the pleasant sound of raindrops falling into the basins.
Today in 2017, the resulting water feature has indeed withstood the test of time. It remains one of the most intriguing water elements within the Southeast and certainly reinforces the description of Orlando as the City Beautiful. To those of you who live and work in downtown Orlando, ADE is proud to have contributed this world-class feature as a part of our firm’s legacy.
I can attest that this water feature still today (25 years later) wells up within me tremendous pride for our community and home. Thank you to the City of Orlando for believing and trusting ADE to have a critical role in the creation of this water feature.
Continuing their blog series celebrating Aquatic Design & Engineering’s (ADE) 30th anniversary, we looking back on an early project that was a big source of pride for founding principal and Orlando native Ken Martin. In this blog, he reflects on his experience designing the unique fountain outside of Orlando’s City Hall. This collaboration is another successful example of urban design, landscape architecture, and engineering having received the Frederic Stresau Award of Excellence from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1994.