Water Fountains, Parks, and Public Spaces

Posted on June 28, 2009 by


The William Mulholland Water Fountain on Los Feliz Blvd near Griffith Park is a traditional pictorial gathering place for weddings, quinceaneras, and…low-cost public use summertime swimming.

Courtesy of Paul Sumi

Courtesy of Paul Sumi

My parents and popular society had always scared me before dipping a finger into public and quasi-public water fountains: “you never what’s in there”, “bums always spit on them”, etc.

Every year when I chance upon the William Mulholland fountain, I almost always see kids having the time of their life swimming in that so-called bum-spit infested cesspool. They would be happily swimming around the water, even dipping their heads without any apparent concern for the dingy chipped 1960s-bathroom-like floor or the industrial products used to make it.

The kids seemed to be alright, far as I know.

I haven’t heard of any new outbreaks of cholera in LA.

In my adult ecologically-conscous days, the water fountain has seemed like such a big waste of time and money. Water displays, water fountains in big corporate offices and quasi-public spaces, which seem to have a big presence in downtown LA and the Westside, what the fuck is all that shit?  Maybe a device of social deterrence? No one’s going to die if there’s no fountain to stare at. No less people are going to stop going if there is a lack of it. So I never understood what the point was if it wasn’t just a way to show how opulent and how much they can afford to waste.

“Americans be wasting it on some leisure shit
While other nations be desperately seekin’ it” – Mos Def

On the other hand while I’m no fan of water fountains, I can’t hate on the use of water for recreation. Kids swimming in the William Mulholland Memorial is an unintended recreational use of water. I like public space used by people in an urban setting, it’s communal and all that jazz.

Panorama City, still here in LA, but in the San Fernando Valley has a very very functional public water park called the Splash Pad, that is pretty good right about now in the 90 degree heat. That’s an intended recreational use of water, and damn it felt good to have that, especially after a run.

Panorama City Splash Pad, its depth, freshness, and enormity captured in this pixelated 240 x 180 image

Panorama City Splash Pad, its depth, freshness, and enormity captured in this pixelated 240 x 180 image

After I very briefly dipped into the pallast of water and walked back home, I thought about the juxtaposition of my hate for water fountains but my acceptance/tolerance of water parks. I thought, if people are going to waste money making fountains, why not just turn them into mini water playgrounds or water parks like that in Pano Ci?

Wouldn’t it be nice if some quasi-public space had an impromptu water park instead of a fake lake and sterile fountains?

In a time where bus stops are being made playful, and public parks and spaces are being eaten up, perhaps this burst of creative thinking could be applied to the quasi-public spaces provided by Americana and the Grove with their useless reservoirs of water movement.



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