February 1, 2006
by Alissa and Pete North
Text Alissa and Pete North
Photos Dan Euser
When Dan Euser speaks of the dynamic behind his work–self-equalizing jets propelling 25,000 gallons of water in three minutes, fibre-optic cables and UV filtration–one could imagine a succession of complex mechanisms. What Euser is explaining are the details of his ingenious water features built in collaboration with internationally renowned architects and landscape architects.
Based in Richmond Hill, a suburb north of Toronto, Euser is a water feature expert who has been involved with an extraordinary number of prestigious projects around the world. When speaking with him, it becomes clear that his technical ability, keen awareness of detail, and design sense is why he is sought after for numerous international projects. A likeable character, his special combination of talent and personality has earned him the respect and trust of both colleagues and clients.
Dan Euser Waterarchitecture (DEW) has specialized in water feature design and consultation for over 20 years. Constructing over 1,000 water projects, he began his career with a degree in landscape architecture in 1978 followed by 12 years at a landscape architecture firm. His seven years’ experience at a water consulting company focused his expertise on the multiple aspects of water features such as the ice fountain in Toronto’s award-winning Village of Yorkville Park. It was while working on this project in 1994 that he met landscape architects Martha Schwartz, Ken Smith, and David Meyer, which later propelled him to launch his own business in 1997. Developed in a niche solely for the design and mechanics of water features, his specialty has enabled him to work on high-profile projects with landscape architect/architect teams such as Peter Walker/Michael Arad on the World Trade Center Memorial, Dan Kiley/Santiago Calatrava on the Milwaukee Art Museum, George Hargreaves/ Polshek Partnership on the Clinton Presidential Center, Reed Hilderbrand/ Tadao Ando and Michael Van Valkenburgh on Teardrop Park, and Peter Walker/Renzo Piano on the Dallas Sculpture Garden.
Through the constant exploration of the innumerable properties of water, one would think that Euser knows everything about his subject, but he asserts that “water cannot be easily predicted…the issues and challenges are always new.” It is this thrill of continual experimentation and learning which seems to invigorate him–striving to animate water with clean details, resolving technical complexities, testing the limits of water, and creating something beautiful and unique.
Most of the learning happens in Euser’s garage, where mock-ups of fountains are constructed to decipher the unknowns. The mock-ups, accurately predicting water displays while doubling as useful selling and funding tools, are made from wood at a 1:1 scale “as water effects cannot be scaled,” according to Euser. Once dismantled, the mock-ups eventually end up in the wood stove in his garage, providing heat while he works on his next project.
When manipulating thousands of gallons of water in the public realm, there needs to be a level of trust. Through the process of collaborative design innovation developed with many architects and landscape architects, Euser has earned this trust from clients and architects alike while being able to work on what he loves most–exploring and learning about the ever elusive properties of water.
Alissa and Pete North lecture at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. They are partners in the recently established North Design Office, a firm specializing in urbanism and landscape architecture.