Behold the lovely Cascata delle Marmore (“Marmore’s Falls”) in Central Italy. This lovely waterfall is divided into three distinct falls with a combined height of 541 feet.
It’s beautiful and all, but what does this have to do with aquatic architecture and the world of aquariums, bridges, and floating houses? A lot, actually. Believe it or not, Cascata delle Marmore is the tallest manmade waterfall on Earth.
The very idea that humans could build something so awesomely powerful and so beautiful is crazy all on its own, but that’s not even the half of it. Take a look at the waterfall and make a wild guess as to when the waterfall was made. The late 1900s? The early 1900s? Maybe the 1800s?
Wrong. This massive waterfall was constructed 2283 years ago in 271 BCE by the ancient Romans. Back then, the citizens of Rieti believed that stagnant water in nearby wetlands was spreading sickness throughout the community. A Roman consul ordered the construction of a canal to divert the water over a cliff at Marmore (hence the name) and into the valley below. The wetlands slowly dried up, but the diverted water ended up threatening another town, Terni. Woops!
Despite the accidental mishap, Cascata delle Marmore stands as one of the most stunning examples of man’s mastery over water – one that will probably never be matched. With all of the new concerns about man’s impact on the environment, a community would need a justifiable reason beyond “it would look pretty” before they could rationalize diverting an entire river to create a waterfall.
The whole reason why I’m writing about Cascata delle Marmore today is to draw attention to the fact that aquatic architecture can look completely natural. It doesn’t have to involve concrete, plexiglass, and steel unless we really want it to. After all, manmade lakes and canals are nothing new.
Use Marmore’s Falls as a mind-expanding exercise. The next time you want to buy a swimming pool, replace concrete and tile with lily pads and silt. If you’re thinking about building a fountain in your backyard, swap out water-spitting cherubs with bubbling brooks and croaking toads to make your home look green and natural.
I wouldn’t count on installing a waterfall in your backyard, though. That’s just silly.