Francisco Páez de la Cadena

Universidad de La Rioja, Logroño, La Rioja, Spain


Francisco Páez de la Cadena teaches at Universidad de La Rioja (Northern Spain). He is a garden historian who specializes in garden history and Spanish historical gardens. He is the author of several books about gardens, such as Historia de los estilos en jardinería (History of styles in gardening, 1982) and Jardines. La belleza cautiva (Gardens. Captive beauty, 2008). In addition, he is the author of a novel and books of poetry.


Can Gardens Teach Us How to Better Use Water?

Since the beginning of mankind, gardens have been recognized as havens of beauty, peace and fertility. Everywhere in our world gardens have been designed to achieve this ideal. Using favorable features in climate, topography and plants, humanity has created spaces where life can thrive and human beings can enjoy a tamed environment. Water has been used in gardens not only for irrigation but also for pleasure, and each gardening culture offers a different and unique approach open to extensive study. 

Pondering these variations on garden water use can be instructive in order to understand what we desire water for and how we use it to beautify our environment.

Two case studies are offered. On the one hand, the gardens of Versailles show an unrivaled technical display in the use of water as fountains and artificial lakes. This work, which was designed by Le Nôtre to fit the grandeur ideas of his king Louis XIV, was amazing but unsustainable. On the other hand, the small gardens and patios of the Andalusian Moorish kings in the South of Spain offer a viable approach to water use for recreation in warm climates and arid lands.

This analysis is completed with some examples of 21st century public gardens, which illustrate that water can be used as an element of pleasure and play in addition to providing an irrigation function.