Imagine Tacoma – Fountains of Spring

With the recent spate of fine Spring weather, thoughts naturally flow to examining Downtown Tacoma’s existing ‘urban waters’ (while imagining some modification possibilities):

Frost Park (S.9th between Pacific and Commerce)
Not a bad fountain and allows for easy interaction (witnessed both kids bathing and women washing their hair in the fountain over the years). Problematic is that the best view is really from the underbelly of the brutalism Park Plaza North behemoth. If only the cascading terraces related to the streetscape and not in geometrical homage to the parking garage – maybe all that is needed is to plant some vines.

Transit Center (Commerce at S. 10th)
When Kunstler was here the first time, he referred to this water feature during his presentation as ‘A Jabba the Hut Memorial Fountain.’ A loud water canyon can be an intriguing element in the urban landscape (e.g. Freeway Park in Seattle), but forcing transit riders to wait within the windy spray just seems a bit too Rumsfeldian for me. Maybe this would be better as a landscaped canyon (with maybe an Ibex or two? – sponsored by Cabalas?).

Theater Square (Broadway at S. 10th)
Actually a pretty good fountain with perimeter seating (when is it is running). All that is missing are the goldfish.

S.10th/Court A
Good Southern exposure with seating all around (a good place to sit in the sun and have a smoke) – and it even looks good even when it is dry.

Wells Fargo Plaza Fountain Court (Pacific/S. 12th)
Nothing says 1970’s like this fountain and spiral stair; however, it is totally cut-off from the street and it is private property (i.e. no taking pictures without permission). Does anyone remember the time when there was a restaurant within the Fountain Court?

S. 11th/Broadway
I actually see kids enjoying the three-dimensional activity of this fountain. I just wish it wasn’t in the middle of the street (a painful reminder of Broadway pedestrian failure). Maybe this fountain could be relocated to some other location Downtown?

Bi-Centennial Pavilion
I remember this as a pretty cool fountain – only it is always in the shade and cut-off from the activity of the street.

Convention Center
Wasn’t this originally supposed to be a ‘water canyon.’ Rumor has it that liability concerns turned off the faucet to this water feature. Maybe this ‘spray-ground’ could be relocated to Tollefson Plaza?

Tollefson Plaza
One of the attributes of a water feature in an urban space is to provide acoustic masking of traffic noise. This water feature not only goes visually unnoticed but it also is mute (unless you happen to be on the adjacent ramp/chute). Perhaps it would be better as a landscaped terrace giving places to sit on grass (sans tables and chairs)?

Glass Museum
Again, the water features are so subtle as to go un-noticed. Maybe colored water in the pools could add a bit of fun to this sobering environment? And what an embarrassment to see the ghost remnant of the Howard Ben Tre Fountain continuing to languish.

With all of these contemporary water features, wouldn’t it be great to restore the Fawcett Font at the entry to Fireman’s Park?

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Jim C

Great post, I have two thoughts:

The Broadway fountain is remarkable to me because both of the two times I have brought young children to the Children’s Museum across the street, the tykes have had more fun sitting on the low wall and checking out the water jets of the fountain than they had in the museum itself.  Water jets + toddlers = good times all around.

Also, I would like to pay respect to whoever worked on the redesign of the pond at Wright Park during the renovation – that pond is my most-visited and enjoyed of Tacoma’s urban waters, I walk by a lot.  I think that the rebuilders did a good job of including nature as a guiding force in their design, like the rest of the park it gives me a feeling of a nod to our more “refined” ancestors – the dark, opaque water contrasts with the shiny, well-scrubbed statue in the center and complements the shady green surroundings.  Too bad MultiCare built their tribute to Fernand Leger or the “steam era” or whatever that is on the other side of I street.

April 10, 2009 at 10:26 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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