Crown Fountain, Chicago ~ Explore #400, September 21, 2012
Crown Fountain is an interactive work of public art and video sculpture featured in Chicago's Millennium Park. Designed by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa and executed by Krueck and Sexton Architects, it opened in July 2004. The fountain is composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers. The towers are 50 feet (15.2 m) tall and they use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to display digital videos on their inward faces. Weather permitting, the water operates from May to October intermittently cascading down the two towers and spouting through a nozzle on each tower's front face.
Residents and critics have praised the fountain for its artistic and entertainment features. It highlights Plensa's themes of dualism, light, and water, extending the use of video technology from his prior works. Its use of water is unique among Chicago's many fountains, in that it promotes physical interaction between the public and the water. Both the fountain and Millennium Park are highly accessible because of their universal design.
Crown Fountain has been one of the most controversial of all the Millennium Park features. Before it was even built, some were concerned that the sculpture's height violated the aesthetic tradition of the park. After construction, surveillance cameras were installed atop the fountain, which led to a public outcry (and their quick removal).
However, the fountain has survived its somewhat contentious beginnings to find its way into Chicago pop culture. It is a popular subject for photographers and a common gathering place. While some of the videos displayed are of scenery, most attention has focused on its video clips of local residents; hundreds of Chicagoans visit the fountain hoping to see themselves appearing on one of the fountain's two screens. The fountain is a public play area and offers people an escape from summer heat, allowing children to frolic in the fountain's water.