Thursday, June 30, 2011

A different kind of painting

Our recent adventures have taken us into and around the city of Pittsburgh, and the boy and I have rediscovered some of our favorite fountains.

One sits in the outdoor courtyard that lies between the Carnegie Museums of Art and of Natural History. The terraced space has small trees, lots of tables and chairs, and a crashing, thunderous wall of water on one side. Gallon after gallon falls from the top of the wall into a long, shallow pool. Because of the force of water impacting water, this one is quite splashy; to stand near it is to ensure wet feet and face. Aaah.

Another great fountain lies next to the BNY Mellon Building (this used to be called One Mellon Center), on the side next to the USX Tower. There's a lovely little park there, with several bench-laden walkways both sunny and shaded to accommodate foot traffic. The fountain sits in a bright, open area; it looks simple enough, a circular ground-level design with large steps that mimic the slight hill upon which it sits. Standing off-center inside the circle are four tall obelisks, notched on top, and water pours from each and intersects with other waters on the way down. It is deceptively uncomplicated, but intricate and painstakingly planned upon closer inspection. The off-center forms, the notches to facilitate water breakage, the placement in full sun, all make it a hugely successful design. During lunch hour, you'll be lucky to find a bench near this beauty, so I must not be the only one who admires it.

But the crowing glory, my friends? The show-stopper? That would be the fountain at PPG Plaza.

This one, too, might not grab your attention at first. It's a bunch of jets set right into sidewalk level on the large plaza floor. If you happen upon it when the jets are on low power, it will look like a series of baby fountains spurting from the concrete, surrounding a stumpy Washington monument-wannabe. But oh, when it's in full power, the scene is quite different. The jets are amazingly strong, and those cute little waterfalls suddenly grow until they tower over your head, reaching heights up to 15 or more feet. The monument in the center of the jets is a safe haven, misty and dreamy but somewhat protected from direct sprays.

What makes this one most special is that it's interactive, and the actors are children. Any visiting kid, of any age, size, or color, can walk and run right through the whole sopping scene. The constant accompaniment to the splashing, arching, spraying waters is the unrestrained screams and giggles of every dripping child there. It is the perfect summer symphony, a glorious cacophony of delight and joy. Conversation close to the fountain is absolutely drowned, and no one minds. Shouts mingle with the sounds of small, slapping feet, and the water rises, rises, rises as do the shrieks of glee. Rainbows dance everywhere, the shiny black glass of the surrounding towers gleams in a wavy sea of reflections, and it is impossible not to grin like a fool in the midst of it all.

Have you taken any time lately to really appreciate the miracle of water? Its existence, its necessity for sustenance, its power to heal and amaze? Yes, I know, it can flood, too–it can cause damage and death and destruction. It deserves our respect. But I just want to think about the good things it does right now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

there is also a great fountain down at Southside works, its set in ground level and there are tons of kids there in suits all the time, too fun. :)