When my house was built without gutters in 1950, water that rolled off the roof was caught by graded pavement encircling the foundation. This directed rain away from the garden to paved paths and to the driveway for dispersal to the street and storm drain system. As a style, let’s call it Golden Age of Flood Control.
After watching 33 inches of rain run off the property last year, but then being forced to draw municipal potable water to irrigate the garden, it became a priority to gutter the house so as to capture and not waste future rain. Ultimately some sort of storage will be involved, but as a first measure, the challenge was to get rain from gutter drainage points to garden areas. Done right, the ground would then be well charged when our irrepressible California growing season takes off in February and March.
The first step was creating a diagram of the roof to see which sections would produce the most runoff, then poring over it with Ruben Ruiz. He is the sheet metal artist who, after installing the gutters, would be fabricating sculptures to push water away from where I didn’t want it, which was near the foundations of the house or street, to where I did want it, which was discharging into thirsty garden soil.
Using the map, it became clear that one of the biggest sections of roof produced so much water that it defied fanciful treatment. Only a conventional downspout and pipe would drain the north roof slope and convey the water behind a fence to where it would be discharged to irrigate fruit trees.
Beyond that, moving water would be done by sculpture. Every gutter would need a new brand of practical art to act as catchers and spreaders. After I asked if the catchers might be flower-shaped, Ruiz disappeared for several weeks into his studio.