The Aqueduct, 2014

Last year was the summer of The Aqueduct: a series of mishaps, course corrections, and headaches that resulted in what I believe is a triumph of landscape art and design.

This overview of the main portion of The Aqueduct dates from summer 2013.

Those of you who were reading Site and Insight last summer may remember the problems we had, catalogued here, herehere, and here. You may remember a passing reference I made earlier this summer about haste making waste, as a hurried decision made last fall proved to be too awful to live with.

But now The Aqueduct is finished. We re-jigged the surroundings to the small pond that is the end point of this installation, we planted the area around it, and now we can sit back and enjoy the view. Which, I say with real satisfaction, is splendid. For much of the work, I give special thanks to Eric Fleury of the Montreal firm Hodgins and Associates. Eric took most of The Aqueduct journey with me, collaborating on design, offering solid advice and correcting the design errors I made all along the way.

My original goal was to restore the sound and the view of a natural stream of water that passed alongside the house. (I wrote about this in one of the first blog entries I wrote, called The Sound of Summer.) Before we bought Glen Villa, we spent part of our summers in a little cottage next door. At that cottage, a stream gurgled its way down to the lake, passing within easy ear of our bedroom window. When we moved, I missed the sounds that lulled me to sleep. I missed the sparkle of the water passing over rocks and the reflections in the still pools that formed under the trees.

This rocky stream passes by the cottage where we used to spend our summer vacation.

Building The Aqueduct was initially an attempt to recreate some of these memories. But it has done much more. It has transformed the view onto the big lawn, added an architectural element that connects the house to the landscape beyond and brought reflections of sky and trees down to ground level. It has added some of the many sounds that water can make: it burbles, trickles, drips, splashes and glides on its path from the hills above Glen Villa down to Lake Massawippi. It has changed the focus of where we sit, from one side of the house to the other.

Did you ever read the children’s book, Paddle to the Sea? It tells the story of an Indian boy who puts a tiny wooden canoe he has carved into the waters north of Lake Superior. We follow the journey of the canoe through the Great Lakes, into the St. Lawrence River and out to the Atlantic. (Does the story end with someone finding the canoe and returning it to the boy? I read it so long ago I can no longer remember.)

The movement of water through The Aqueduct reminds me of that story. Water starts at The Skating Pond, fed by natural springs that come from the hills above. The stream grows as it passes through the Upper Field, fed by more ground springs. It meanders through The Meadow,

The stream freezes completely in winter so this photo must show it
in March, as the weather begins to warm up.

before dropping into the small pond next to the driveway called The Cascade.

We created The Cascade when we first moved into Glen Villa.

The water passes under the driveway and enters a holding pond where The Aqueduct proper begins,

This holding pond leaked last summer. Re-lined with clay, it has held water perfectly this year.
You can see a bit of The Cascade at the back of the photo.

as water enters the elevated channel that gives the project its name. Because the ground slopes off steeply here, the channel steps down as well. The U-beam channel is not perfectly level, so water moves along by force of gravity.

The upright posts copy the design of posts that support decks around the house.
They are made of wood, the channel is a steel U-beam.

It falls into the small rectangular basin that sits on top of the stone wall, then drops into the reflecting pond,

This photo, taken from one of the decks on the house, shows the reflecting pond.
The plantings on the slope will fill in, creating another kind of waterfall.

A square box set into the reflecting pond allows the water in the pond itself to remain calm,  to reflect the sky and trees around it.

From the pond, the water spills out into a steel channel set into the grass,

Water levels are low this year so a small part of the channel is dry.
The lip of the reflecting pond is stainless steel. The orange colour of the other steel will soften with time. 

before falling again into the final pond. This is the pond we re-jigged after my haste-making-waste design error. (The story of that may appear next week.)

This final pond sits above another small waterfall. From it water moves into the lake.

The final step in the water’s journey takes it from this pond, over an old and decaying stone wall that forms the final waterfall. It moves alongside the boathouse and, finally, into the lake. The wall of the old waterfall and the foundations of the century-old boathouse below both need to be repaired, and the repairs are scheduled to start this month.

But before that work ends the tranquillity at Glen Villa, we have time to enjoy what is here. Which, with family around, is a joy indeed.