Philip Johnson’s Oasis in Fort Worth

Just back from a trip to Forth Worth, Texas where we returned to one of our favorite architectural gems – the Water Gardens, designed in 1974 by the modernists Philip Johnson and John Burgee. A study in contrasts, the Gardens are a series of distinct micro-environments, nestled within an urban center, featuring more than 500 species of plants on over 4 acres.


Standing amid the micro-environments of The Water Gardens

Inspired by “Alice in Wonderland,” Johnson wanted visitors to share Alice’s experience of getting bigger and smaller and never knowing when either would occur. This sense of disorientation and wonder are at play at every turn, as the architects strategically lead the visitor through the environments, along pathways or “processionals” as Johnson referred to them.

Riotously loud water rushes over climbable concrete steps in the Active Pool, while just around the bend, inside a canyon with walls of quietly cascading water, lies the meditative Quiet Pool surrounded by Cypress trees. The deep steps of The Mountain carry you high up to a peaceful, grassy perch above the entire Gardens, while the sunken Aerating Pool draws you deep down with its a wild display of rotating, colored lights. All paths lead back to the Central Square, creating a truly communal experience.


The Active Pool invites you to climb steep, concrete steps amidst loudly rushing waterfalls

 


Strolling through the depths of the Quiet Pool

 


The Mountain's uniquely tall steps, designed by Johnson/Burgee for "perching, not reclining."

 


The light display at the Aerating Pool is amazing at night

 

Our kids were smitten by every aspect of the Water Gardens, so we would definitely suggest it for architecture (and playground) enthusiasts of all ages.