No Minister

Charismatic Cisterns

We’re all used to seeing water tanks that look like these ones, particularly in New Zealand and Australia where they’re a common site on farms, although they’re usually no longer in use. These two actually don’t look too bad, probably because the sagging lean of their platforms has added some style to their image, courtesy also of a good photographer.

When it comes to our urban areas New Zealand lucks out with its hilly geography providing an automatic gravity-fed capability. Huge water tanks and cisterns can be buried on the top of hills, perhaps with less than half of the structure sticking above ground.

That’s a good thing because their basic functionality means that they are not pretty to start with.

In other parts of the world where towns and cities are surrounded by hundreds of miles of flat land, the townsfolk are not so lucky. Their water tanks, more correctly termed water towers, have to be raised on a platform to gain sufficient height above the surrounding buildings that they supply. When I first drove through the American Mid-West my attention kept being drawn to these water tanks, not only because I found such structures unusual but because they often looked like the following.

Butt ugly in other words.

Even more so when extra functionality is added by turning them into cellphone towers.

So it was with some pleasure that I discovered that as painting technology has advanced people are no longer willing to accept ugly-functional as the water tank/tower look. There’s even a competition to judge the best ones, Tank Of The Year, which you can view at your leisure by clicking on the link. But here’s some of my favourites

I don’t agree with all the winning selections of course, but here’s my favourite winner, from 2017.

PinInterest also has a nice selection of water tower photos , although it’s labeled “weird” for some reason.

Even the much older concept of cisterns can be prettier than water towers, even if they’re hardly ever seen because they’re underground, like this one in the Peniche Fortress (Forte de Peniche), Portugal.

Bulls Water Tower

Meanwhile back here in NZ, in the heart of the Rangitikei Plains, we’ve got one of our examples of the classic water tower, courtesy of the area being one of the few parts of the nation that are as flat as the American Mid-West.

Yes, that’s the famous/infamous water tower that greets travellers entering the township of Bulls.

I see that it has been de-commissioned because it’s not earthquake proof but has been saved from demolition by a public vote. I realise that architects probably will swoon over it as a classic example of mid-20th century Modernist building style, but I doubt that the old Ministry Of Works architects were thinking that when designing it.

No, it’s functional – and a butt ugly wart on the landscape. Perhaps, having saved the damned thing, the public could be inspired by the links above to apply some creative painting to it.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 11, 2021 at 11:13 am

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  1. Paranormal

    May 11, 2021 at 9:25 pm


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