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Designer of Bellagio Fountains Gets the Water (and Cash) Flowing

fountains The fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas / Credit: WET Enterprises

Starting a business is challenging enough, but can you imagine starting an entire industry? That's exactly what Mark Fuller did when he began designing water features for a living. His company, WET, was the first to create large-scale moving water displays, including the famous Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, and has installed more than 200 global water features over the last 30 years.

A designer and engineer with a background in chemistry and physics, Fuller's interest in the movement of water began with a number of water-related projects in his youth, most of which ended in near disaster. By the time he reached college, his passion had led him to write an undergraduate thesis on something he called "axisymmetric laminar fluid flow," a rapid free flow of liquid molecules that makes it appear motionless. Fuller designed and created water technologies based on this phenomenon for the Walt Disney Co.'s special-effects department before co-launching his own firm in 1983.

WET, founded by Fuller and two other former Disney employees, is dedicated exclusively to engineering elaborate water features. Its goal is to allow the water itself to be the main focus of a fountain.

"Fountains are a classic mainstay of architecture, but the emphasis is on the sculpture," said Fuller, the company's CEO. "Water tends to spray out and cascade over statues. I wondered if we could create water features where water is the sculptural element."

Mark Fuller, CEO/Co-Founder of WET Credit: WET Enterprises

Fuller's company created and patented ground fountains (water features that are built into pavement), sophisticated underwater robots and other technologies that turn flowing water into an art form. WET works with choreographers like Kenny Ortega ("High School Musical" choreographer) to design features that mimic the real-time movements and grace of a human dancer using water. Fuller also draws inspiration from observing simple things in nature, like leaves washing down a driveway.

"It's about blowing small things up to architectural scale," Fuller told BusinessNewsDaily. "We use an everyday element in a way you've never seen before. We've changed the way people view fountains by what the water does."

For Fuller, the most difficult part of starting his company was convincing building owners to commit to what, on the surface, seemed like an unnecessary expense.

"We had to educate people on the benefits of having a water feature," Fuller said. "It's soulful and refreshing, and can be economic. The Bellagio was able to raise the rates of the rooms that overlooked its fountain, which became an icon for the city of Las Vegas."

While WET boasts an impressive portfolio of massive features — the Dubai Fountain, the Columbus Circle fountain in New York City and the cauldron for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, to name a few — it's not all about grandiose displays of expertly engineered water movement. The company loves the opportunity to design features for smaller spaces as well.

"There's a human connection that can be achieved with water features that's not really related to size," Fuller said. "As human beings, we have an inner essential craving to connect with elemental life forces. We're entertained and thrilled by them. It's fun to explore all size ranges to find that essential quality."

Fuller was mum about any specific details of upcoming WET projects, but he guaranteed that the company will continue to push the boundaries of water. The culture and environment he has created at WET allows for the collaboration and innovation needed to achieve this.

"We work with scientists, engineers, designers, carpenters, architects, etc., and all of these creative disciples come together and bounce off each other," Fuller explained. "A great deal of discovery in the current and future world will come from bringing many different things together."

Fuller encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to indulge their sense of curiosity and really pay attention to what they find fascinating.

"Don't think that you have to fit into an ordinary role," he said. "There is so much that can be achieved just by taking whatever you've learned and thinking about how you can do it differently than anyone else."

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.