Homes and gardens

Making sense of rain chains

The chains offer a sensory connect with nature

The chains offer a sensory connect with nature  


Anupama Mohanram on the aesthetic vertical features that help conserve water

Downspouts are vertical pipes that lead rainwater down from the roof and collect into catchment systems. They can be utilised for direct use or the water can percolate into the ground into re-charge pits. Hints of such drainage systems were seen as early as the Harappan civilization wherein sophisticated drainage systems were constructed based on scientific methods.

Such plumbing systems were further developed by the early Romans. In Britain, the earliest known downspout was found in the Tower of London in the 13th century. They were used not only to capture rainwater, but to protect the whitewashed walls from rain. Decorative spouts called ‘gargoyles’ were also used in combination with downspouts.

Pocketing rain

First seen in Japan over 400 years ago, and known as ‘kusari doi’, rain chains were originally integrated into the design of tea ceremony houses called ‘sukiyazukuri’.

The aesthetically designed vertical features would lead water down from the roof in an interesting pattern. The water would then be collected in ceramic or stone pots to be stored for household use or alternatively, directed into rain gardens. These gardens improved water quality by filtering run-off, and they also helped with flood control and encouraged biodiversity to thrive.

Ornate copper rain chains were also commonly found in Japanese temples. Copper was used for its durability, corrosion resistance and aesthetic appearance. Today, rain chains are made using a variety of materials such as brass, aluminium and terracotta, and are available in varied forms: single link chains include a continuous chain of single links, double link chains comprise more links at the connection points, and zen loops are designed with vertical bars within each loop to enhance the flow downward.

Cup chains have a series of metal cups with a hole in the bottom of each cup. These function as a funnel directing water from one cup into another. The cup style minimises the water splashing even during heavy rain falls.


Used to enhance the vision and sound of water flowing down, rain chains turn drainage into a unique experience instead of concealing the process within closed pipes. They can also help slow the water flow and thereby reduce erosion on the ground.

Innovatively designed rain chains can prove to be an interesting design feature in homes. They are not only functional and aesthetic, but also offer us the much needed sensory connect with nature.

The author is the

founder of Green Evolution,

a sustainable architecture firm

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 9:31:04 PM |

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