Rotary Fountains in the Heart of Eurasia

Our attention was attracted by a wonderful project in the city of Almaty – the southern capital of Kazakhstan. Almaty is a crossroads of civilizations, one of the important and longest points of the Great Silk Road and a key centre of charity in the pre-Soviet and post-Soviet periods of its history.

The First Rotary Club in Kazakhstan: History

It is not a coincidence that exactly here, among the first Rotary Clubs in the post-Soviet area, the Rotary Club of Almaty (RCA) appeared back in 1995. RCA has had a series of remarkable projects – including mass support and diagnostics campaign for children with epilepsy – for the Public Fund «Ken Jurek», complete re-equipment and modernisation of the special kindergarten#2, providing hospitals of the city with new ambulances and equipment, giving incubators for premature babies to maternity departments and perinatal centers of Almaty.

In cultural life, RCA has always been a conductor of refined social events – Viennese balls, creative evenings with participation of international celebrities, performers, singers and has acted as a partner of cultural days to key partners of Kazakhstan in the cultural arena – Italy, USA, France, Great Britain, and Turkey.

28th Anniversary of the Club

And to honour its 28th anniversary, the (RCA) will carry out a very noble and deserving project to place Rotary drinking fountains in the city of Almaty with futuristic designs, anti-freeze functions, drinking bowls for animals and inclusive facilities for disabled people. Twenty-seven will be erected, according to the number of years of the Club’s existence. The crown of the grandiose plan will be the Main Architectural Fountain of Almaty – Arman-Bulak (Dreams source) – whose prototype is the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The Roman example was chosen completely consciously: there are more than 3500 drinking fountains in the Italian capital. Visitors and residents do not even need to buy water, such is the density of fountains per square meter. 

The Origins of the Idea

Almaty is the largest and most populous city in Kazakhstan and the centre of tourist flows with a very hot climate and a constantly growing territory. Due to climatic features the megalopolis seriously lags behind many regions in the provision of drinking fountains. In addition, clean water, sanitation and hygiene education are essential for a healthy environment and productive life.

Drinking fountains are a whole new level of comfort for citizens and guests of the city, a driver of tourism development, returning comfort to the city – historically, Almaty has always been the most “fountainised” city in the Asian sector of the former USSR. However, in recent years, the trend has been pushed aside by more pressing issues of infrastructure development and undeservedly forgotten.

Fountains: From Planning to Implementation

The RCA’s bold vision is now becoming a reality. The club, represented by Altynay Beissembiyeva (President 2022-2023) and her team took a course on integration of efforts with local authorities alongside the Mayor’s office (akimat), it’s head Mr Erbolat Dossayev and the Department of Public Health of Almaty. An MoU was signed stating that projects would be jointly run together with local authorities.

Erbolat Dossayev (Mayor of Almaty), Altynay Beissembiyeva (president RCA), Nataliya Drobysheva & Vitaliy Koltochnik (members of Board RCA)

Thus, this year 2 incubators will be handed to two perinatal and neonatal centres in Almaty. The Fountain Project will be the first joint collaboration with the Governor’s effective office managers and many others are to come in future.

The Faces of the Project

Amir Kabulov, Fountains Project leader, dedicated Rotarian, architect and designer. He is a graduate of Politechnico de Milano in the field of HoReCa public space design, known for his creative solutions in the world capitals of culture – London, Paris, Cannes and Milan.

Architect of the project – Ricardo Andrea Marini

Ricardo is the author of the reconstruction of Panfilov Street, one of the oldest in the historical center of Almaty, and many landmark projects in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. Previously he worked in the team of the famous Danish architect Jan Geil in Kazakhstan.

Ricardo Marini is a big fan of drinking fountains as an element of urban aesthetics and comfortable urban environment. His hobby is to photograph drinking fountains around the world and place them in virtual exhibitions. After hearing about the Almaty Rotary Club’s project, he immediately fell in love with its idea and  decided to take part in it as a designer.

Gulmira Baigabulova, owner of Urban Living, Member of the Public Council of the City of Almaty

Famous Italian expert on architecture and urban planning, director of playmaking at Urban Living (flagship of the architectural business in Kazakstan) under the guidance of the famous urbanist and public figure of Almaty, Gulmira Baigabulova, partner and co-executor of the project.

Cultural Renaissance – as a new paradigm of Rotary Club of Almaty

The first fountain dates back to 3000 B.C; it was a goddess holding a basin. Water was sourced from a local spring. Early fountains used gravity instead of mechanical pumps to move the water. As we moved to live in urban settlements the way we gathered potable water needed to change. The ancient Etruscans, Romans and Greeks started to develop drinking fountains as part of public infrastructure.

The reality of providing water fountains in a city such as Almaty is to ensure that during all season’s water will be available. The provision of water fountains is an essential component of a ‘city for people’, it also is a great way to reduce single use plastic, that is so problematic in modern cities. There is also a cultural, spiritual, mystical and religious significance of drinkable water “offering to the water gods” meaning that today the phenomenon of throwing coins in a fountain still exists as an offering to these ideas. In Rome throwing one coin means you will go back to Rome, 2 coins means you will meet a Roman, and 3 means you will marry one! The Trevi fountain is one of the most famous fountains in the world. The city gathers approximately 3000 euros a day from fountains alone!

Almaty fountains get a special meaning in the context of the events that shook the world in January 2022. The January events left a deep mark on the perception of Kazakhstan and its southern capital. The city experienced enormous damage to the security, beauty, architectural look and economy of the city.

The Rotary Club of Almaty set a goal to return Almaty to its former comfort and sense of safety and harmony, to support the development of the native city in the spirit of sustainable development goals and the revival of the rich cultural and historical heritage of the southern capital. Almaty Fountains solves the problem of access to drinking water, combines the tasks of climate control, access to drinking water, zoo protection and social inclusion. It symbolises the permanent process of purification and renewal. It is an impetus for the development of tourism and the local economy.

Vitaly Koltochnik

Сlub secretary and chairman of the PR committee of the Rotary Club of Almaty