Chicago Illinois, a city famed for its bold architecture and deep-dish pizza has been home to the renowned Crown Fountain in Millennium Park since 2004. Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa was immediately captivated by the chance to co-opt an ancient, historical symbol into an innovative project for present day definition of a public meeting place. Once a place where people gathered not only to collect water, but to communicate with each other and create lasting bonds; fountains, for Plensa and his team, were, historically and currently, at the heart of what a community gathering place should include. Crown Fountain has affirmed this, as it continues to thrive as a community hub for Chicago citizens and tourists alike, only gaining more popularity as the years come to pass; now with an estimated five million annual visitors.
The interactive aspect of the space is not only with other patrons, or with the water, but with over 1000 Chicagoans who contributed to this extensive collaboration, filmed by the Art Institute of Chicago, with their faces displayed on the 50 foot high LED screens. Occasionally, the citizens open their mouths and a stream of water spouts from the screen, incorporating a contemporary innovation of the historical gargoyle effect into this water feature. Water falls down all three sides of the towers continuously, and when the videotaped faces and nature scenes take a break, water plunges down all four sides to delight and cool off children on a hot summer’s day. The Crown Fountain requires a very complex system to run the artist’s seemingly effortless effects, made possible by early collaboration between the parties in the planning and development stages – ensuring that all aspects of the final outcome tied in together seamlessly.
Mr. Crown, the primary donor for the project, told the group during the planning process, “I know you will fail and that’s OK.” Not to be mistaken for a lack of faith, this permission to fail granted the team with the empowerment to take risks, push boundaries, test themselves, and rely on each other for support. This seemingly impossible project was made possible through all members of the team collaborating in the early stages of development, ensuring every challenge could be met with innovative ideas so to not jeopardize the final outcome. The Crown Fountain represents innovation, collaboration, and community strengthening through the appreciation and interaction with successful projects. With the proper vision, team, and hard work, a project can make a lasting impact on a space for decades to pass.