Filed Under Water

Arizona Falls as Public Art

WaterWorks at Arizona Falls plays with the serious subjects of water and power to bring new life to the historic falls along the Arizona Canal. SRP and the Phoenix Arts Commission commissioned the project from the internationally-renowned team of public artists Mags Harries and Lajos Héder.

In collaboration with landscape architect Steve Martino, Harries and Héder sought to bring "into focus the role of water in the history of Phoenix and in the future of green-energy" and to explore "water as both a utilitarian commodity and as a beautiful transformative substance."

Built to accompany a new hydro-power plant, WaterWorks still uses the water that comes from the high country 60 miles east of Arizona Falls through five dams and storage reservoirs. WaterWorks revels in and reveals the pre-industrial and industrial past to remind us how water and electrical power have been harnessed to fuel the rise of desert metropolitan cities.

Harries and Héder's 1992 Wall Cycle to Ocotillo along State Route 51 was one of the first large public art projects of the Phoenix Arts Commission. Their 2003 WaterWorks provides both a personal and communal place to ponder the gravity-fed journey of water, the power of water, and the power of this particular place.

edited 12/23/2019:wt


Experiencing Arizona Falls Mags Harries explains the process and inspiration behind how she and her colleagues Lajos Héder and Steve Martino redesigned the Arizona Falls visitor area in 2003. Written by Mags Harries, Lajos Heder, and Amy T. Long; narrated by Mags Harries. Recorded at Scottsdale Channel 11; courtesy of the Papago Salado Association.


Arizona Falls
Arizona Falls Prior to the construction of the first power plant, Arizona Falls reveals the natural 20-foot drop. Source: Historic American Engineering Record, Library of Congress. Date: 1901
Arizona Falls Power Plant
Arizona Falls Power Plant Arizona Falls power plant shortly after it was built. Source: Historic American Engineering Record, Library of Congress
Ingleside Inn
Ingleside Inn Arizona Falls has been a gathering place for many years. When W. J. Murphy finished building the Arizona Canal, he enticed winter visitors to his Ingleside Inn, located just east of the falls, where he treated his guests to a cool spot to gather before picnicking near the water. Source: Scottsdale Historical Society, Scottsdale Public Library.
Arizona Falls Visitor Center
Arizona Falls Visitor Center SRP, the Phoenix Arts Commission, and the Arcadia Neighborhood revitalized the old Arizona Falls hydroelectric plant in 2003, with a public art project designed by Mags Harries and Lajos Héder. Harries and Héder have worked on environmental projects, usually with water, in cities throughout the United States, including Louisville, Kentucky; Lowell, Massachusetts; and Austin, Texas. Source: Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons. Creator: Cygnusloop99 Date: 2009



John Larsen Southard, Mark Tebeau, and Amy Long, “Arizona Falls as Public Art,” Salt River Stories, accessed June 24, 2024,