Crown Fountain, 2004
Corner of Michigan Avenue and Monroe Drive
In his review of the unveiling of Millennium Park in 2004, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin began by stating, “Roll over, Buckingham Fountain.” The installation of Crown Fountain brought “the art of the urban fountain into the 21st century.”
Gifted to the people of Chicago by the Crown family and designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, it is one of the major public art works at Millennium Park, a short walk from Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate. The fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers located at the ends of a 232-foot shallow reflecting pool. Unlike the basin at the Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain, here visitors are encouraged to walk through the water. Each tower projects a series of LED video images. With a reference to the traditional use of open-mouthed gargoyles spilling out water as a symbol of life, this interactive fountain showcases images of Chicagoans who “spit” water from their lips. Filmed with a high-definition camera by students from the Art Institute of Chicago, the subjects were selected from a number of city organizations from a cross-section of 1,000 residents; they were not told they would be part of a fountain but should act as if they were blowing a kiss. These faces appear for five minutes at a time before fading with a cascade of water from the top of the structure. "I believe in the anonymous people building up a city. They represent all of us, they become symbols—they could be your son or girlfriend or grandfather," Plensa told the Sun-Times in 2007. More than 11,000 gallons of water flow out of the mouths and through the fountain per hour.
Plensa’s work is featured in more than cities around the world, including Dubai, London, Tokyo, Toronto and Vancouver. Themes of his prior works—dualism, light and water—are evident in this fountain. He combines conventional materials, such as glass, steel, bronze and aluminum, with more unconventional media such as video, sound, and light. In this way, Plensa creates hybrid, energetic forms and his work evokes emotion as he connects with his viewers on an intuitive level.