Charlie at Chelsea: Water Feature

Charlie Albone’s show garden “A Time in Between” is sadly now a fond memory, as it was pulled down this week at Chelsea. It is unfortunately, one of the downsides to show gardens. As inspiring as they are, the gardens exist only for as long as the show, never to be seen again, with only the captured imagery allowing us to reflect.

One element of Charlie’s garden that mesmerised me was the water feature.  At first glance, it was a simple, elegant garden feature that complimented the design beautifully. Upon second glance, it was realised that its’ function was intimately considered and a fundamental part of the design.

Having worked with Mick Conway from Conway Landscaping previously at the Chelsea Flower Show 2012 with Jason Hodges and Flemings Nurseries, Cameron Maxwell from Australian Plunge Pools was an automatic choice when it came to designing and constructing the complexed water feature required to complete Charlie’s design. With a background in hydraulic engineering, Cameron had the knowledge to produce exactly what Charlie wanted to achieve.

Charlie had an idea that he wanted a water feature that would fill slowly then remain full for a period of time, then empty in seconds, so between us we came up with this design.

For Charlie, this movement of water was a representation life and how quickly it can be taken away. It was a dynamic feature within the garden that provided a silent theatrical element, emulating the feeling of loosing a loved one. The water feature took 7 minutes to fill, it remained at capacity for a moment, only to be released and disappear all within 7 seconds.

The water feature was made up of 3 main components. An aluminium chamber that sat beneath the ground acting as a reservoir, a 4.5m circular dish lined with dry stone paving that held the water above the ground. And the third and most integral component, an air operated plug that allowed the dish to fill and empty in seconds.



Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 2.21.53 pm

kuva_chelsea 2015_05May2015_1698Cameron had many facets to consider in designing this water feature. The regulations at the show meant that they were depth restrictions on site with the landscaping team only allowed to dig to a depth of 1.6m. All components therefore had to fit within this dimension and still fit into the container for transport to the UK. Another consideration was how fast the water would run over the dry stone cladding.

The most important consideration was that Charlie didn’t want the feature to sound like a toilet when emptying 2600lt of water in 7 seconds!

The big test came when after travelling across the globe, it arrived safely on site, was positioned into the ground and filled with water. Cameron recalls, “It was a great relief when I pulled the plug and the water disappeared for the first time. To see the look on Charlie’s face was amazing.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 3.03.08 pmCameron says proudly, “To know that we had designed this from scratch and to now see it working well within the parameters of the design brief was a great moment of satisfaction and relief.”

kuva_chelsea_15May2015_2886Now Cameron’s second involvement at the Chelsea Flower Show, the enormity of it all came flooding back very quickly. “It’s definitely a bit of a reality check when the build begins; up at 6am, in cab at 6.30am, onsite at 7am, finish at 8pm, walk to the pub, drink a few pints, catch a cab home at 10.30pm, dinner by 11pm and in bed by midnight.  And the next day, you wake up and do it all over again, for as long as it takes to complete.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 3.02.34 pmSo now that the show is over and normality reigns, what’s next for Australian Plunge Pools? “More beautiful pools, more water features and some projects with the Health industry and Aged care, as well as sporting facilities.”

“Our Hydraulic Engineering and drafting team allows us to design and consult on intricate and complex projects in both Building and Aquatics and this is something we are pursuing.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 3.07.12 pm“We have a lot of support from the design industry and are having a good run with great projects on the go, the plans coming into the office are amazing. Working closely with professionals in the industry really highlights the value of great planning and design consultation.”

The short of it…

Australian Plunge Pools
Pools, Water Features