In the scale of a large urban development, the implementation of a water fountain may seem trivial, but it can have a surprisingly significant role in improving sustainability and community outcomes.

Public water fountains have fallen out of use in recent decades, with the rise of bottled water. However, with the renewed focus on sustainability and an increasingly urgent need to reduce plastic waste, many councils and developers are looking at innovative ways to encourage the use of tap water.

Supporting this move away from single use products, SMEC was recently engaged by property developer Central Equity to bring back the popularity of water fountains in Australia. Pioneers of Melbourne inner-city living, Central Equity are creators of award-winning apartment projects and land estates.

Central Equity was delighted to introduce SMEC to social enterprise the O initiative. Central Equity was passionate about introducing the idea of sustainability-focused infrastructural art pieces to major land development projects. This is something that really hasn’t been done before. It was vital for Central Equity to voluntarily gift something creative, iconic and above all, practicably useful to the community.

O fountain installed at Central Equity development, Newgate in Victoria, painted by local artist Donna Racovalis, representing the native Growling Grass Frog.

The O fountain, developed by the O initiative, combines community art with the functionality of a public water refilling station.

The organisation provides a beautiful ‘blank canvas’ water fountain, which gives local councils and developers the opportunity to engage with community artists to bring the fountains to life and add a sense of place within newly built neighbourhoods.

“The O fountain incorporates interaction, attraction, and practical functionality, and at the same time promotes awareness of sustainable practices to benefit the environment,”

– Gretha Oost, Founder of the O initiative and designer of the O fountain.

Central Equity has commissioned four O fountains for Newgate as well as two previously installed in the Docklands. Newgate is a new community in Tarneit, Victoria built by Central Equity, with support from Wyndham City Council.

“Central Equity values innovative projects and inclusive places that support healthy, sustainable lifestyles,” said Eddie Kutner, Founding Director and Executive Chairman of Central Equity Group. “The O initiative aligns with all of these values and we are proud to include four water fountains in our Newgate development. The fountains provide the local community with points of interest, encouraging behaviour change by supporting park users to refill their own water bottles,” said Mr Kutner. 

Local artist Jessica Jane painted this O fountain, installed in Trentbridge Park, at Central Equity’s Newgate development, Victoria.

Through partner Wonderment Walk Victoria, Central Equity liaised with the O initiative to develop a proposal that outlined maintenance costs and technical specifications for Wyndham City.

Wonderment Walk Victoria also supported the project by commissioning local artists to transform the fountains – Donna Racovalis, Elizabeth Dalton Hooker and Jessica Jane. Wonderment Walk Victoria supported the artists at each step in the process, from providing detailed artist briefs to assisting with concept development and overseeing the live, on site painting of the artists’ designs on the fountains. Haymes Paint generously provided the materials.

Wonderment Walk Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation that believes that great societies are defined through their art, science and knowledge. Wonderment Walk Victoria is working to strengthen Victoria’s reputation as a creative and knowledge building place by enhancing walking routes, like those within Newgate, with sculptural wonderments, like the O fountains.


“The O fountains at Newgate contribute positively to placemaking and to the local community’s experiences of their local parks,” said Josh Dennis, Associate Landscape Architect at SMEC. “The O fountains are apt symbols of design thinking, with an emphasis on sustainability and conserving environment. The local artwork contributes a sense of lightness and joy and the iconic fountain form lends itself to a gathering or meeting place,” said Mr. Dennis.” 


Wyndham City was both receptive to and supportive of the development of a fresh and unique amenity that doubled as a ‘talking point’ for the community.

O fountain installed at Central Equity development Newgate in Victoria, painted by artist Elizabeth Dalton Hooker. 


The O initiative partners with property developers, consultants, urban designers, landscape architects and placemakers to enhance public space and community wellbeing through the O fountain.


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