Beating the Heat

A little over two years ago, I wrote a post about a downtown fountain on a 96-degree day:

In two years, this fountain will sit like a crown on a ribbon of green that reaches from here to City Hall, the white building you can see in the distance. There will be a real public park for downtown LA. And a new museum with great architecture sure to make it a worthy foil to Disney Hall. Which means—and we hope—thousands of people will be crawling these blocks at all hours of the day and night.

That means you’ve got two years to enjoy the silent canyons of Grand Avenue. Two years to experience the vacant plazas, the empty benches, the quiet sidewalks. Especially on this scorcher of an afternoon, I highly recommend paying a visit to these lonely urban geysers for one of their last private performances.

Last week, that park finally opened. As my review in the LA Weekly notes, it’s well-designed, but it will need one crucial element—those people—to make it a truly transcendent public space. Luckily, one part of it has already become one of the most dynamic new places in downtown. And yes, it’s a fountain:

The plaza below a restored 46-year-old Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, once obscured by the ramps of a parking garage, has been transformed into a vast “membrane pool.” An inch of water creates a rippling canvas for a field of choreographed geysers where kids, dozens of kids, in swimsuits and Crocs and sunblock, squeal as they weave between the columns of water. Nearby, fluorescent pink chairs are occupied by smiling, towel-holding parents and buttoned-up city employees, more than a few of whom kick off their shoes and wade into the pool themselves. The whole scene looks even prettier at night.

The fountain plaza — which I’ve dubbed Toddler Beach — is the very best part of Grand Park (formerly Civic Park), a new 12-acre strip of public space that cascades down Bunker Hill from the Music Center to the steps of City Hall. Although sections have been functional since July, the fully-operational park officially opens this Saturday, creating a nice outdoor area in the center of the city and bringing some much-needed amenities like a dog run to the neighborhood. It’s definitely not “our Central Park,” as some have hyped (maybe Bryant Park?), but Grand Park accomplishes a lot, and with very little to work with in this small, park-starved sliver of downtown.

Oddly enough, I wrote about this fountain on a 96-degree day as well. (EXCEPT IT WAS IN OCTOBER.) And wouldn’t you just know it, it’s breaking 90 again today. Most public pools are closed in the fall and the beach is often out of reach, but two of the city’s most incredible, wade-able water features are now spraying within a block of each other in downtown.

I think you know what I’m trying to say here. It’s hot. These fountains are cool.

I did not take the photo of Grand Park, Jim Simmons did, because on the day I went to photograph it, there were dancers rehearsing in the fountain. Which was still cool to see.

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