Posts tagged ‘Fountain’

May 30, 2012

Daily Plaza: The Fountain

When most of us are still alseep, Patrick Brent, Fountain Attendant, is at City Hall going through his daily routine clearing the debri from what he affectionately calls the “Pond”. He’s there Monday through Friday from 6am-2pm. In October, he’ll have been the attendant for 2 yrs.

“It’s nice,” he says, of the work. Though he’s not smiling in the picture he usually smiles a lot, and when he does his gold tooth is gleaming. You can tell he likes it. He takes pride in it, and cares for it. He’s got an ease and calm about him that immediately puts you at rest, much like the fountain itself. It’s like they were made for each other.

The fountain has a rich history itself. At one point in time it was seen as a wading pool. But calling it a “pool” changed when the days of someone suing over burning their mouths on coffee became a “thing.” In his 1983 Report to Dallas City Council,¬†William “Holly” White recommended it be used as a pool, and a place to sail small electric boats, for ducks, and the like. And in 1984 it was. The fountain was actually used as a pool in its legendary event City Hall Beach Day.¬†But these days the pool-pond-fountain, is filled with so many chemicals that wading into to it would cause your skin to boil (okay, not for real, but there are a lot of chemicals). In fact, the other day, Patrick added 50 lbs of muriatic acid to kill all the algae, which consists of wading around the fountain, hand-sifting the powder into the water.

At one time, the fountain was drained and had tables in chairs in it. It’s even served host to concerts, and this blogger heard that Van Halen played here once. Even if they didn’t, it sounds like a pretty great idea! Today, the fountain is just for looking. I recommend from 11:00-1:00pm, when the water feature is a’goin, or 12:30, which is when I’m usually out-to-eat with a small motley crue of City Hallers. We have good conversation, fly kites, enjoy watching the tourist, and every now and then watching the cat-and-mouse game that occurs when someone sticks their toe in the pool or gets too close for comfort causing the security guards run out and shoe them away. Sally Rodriguez, of Parks and Rec, said that every now and then a protester or an errant soul will wade out abashed and jump onto the red balls. I told Patrick about this, we chuckled about it, and then got into a discourse about whether or not the balls are “art.”

As the seasons change, Patrick has to deal with different obstacles from leaves, to heat, to cold, to algae. Most days he goes through his routine, circling each level and sweeping the rocks into a pile, snagging floating debri with his net, changing the filters, and a litany of other odd jobs to keep things in check. Sometimes he finds some change, and every now and then he’ll find a buck – a nice little perk of the job! He works the pool quietly and methodically, communing with his thoughts and his ear buds, which he revealed are mostly tuned to hip hop. I grimaced when he told me that…to think, there’s a little hip hop concert happening in the fountain every day. Nice!

And though the fountain is mesmerizing, and as daunting as City Hall itself, only one person, ONE, gets to fully interact with it on a day to day basis. For the rest of us it’s beauty can only be experienced from a far – you can look but never touch.

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May 21, 2012

Daily Plaza: Globe Lights

Last week, one morning, I was in the Studio at City Hall looking at onto the plaza, as I do most days. I watched as the Equipment Building Services (EBS) crew rolled around the plaza in a blue motorized latter – it was light maintenance day. They stopped at one of the globe light fixtures and inspected it for a second. I grabbed my camera and raced out to capture them, but alas, I was too late, they had rolled on. Instead, I recognized something. The globe lights…ooooowww. I had noticed them before, but never stopped to look at them; inspect them, find out their story. Why was EBS inspecting it today, had they intentions to replace it?

I walked around and took photos of the glass globe shells. I started with the one that EBS had inspected and began snapping shots. It wasn’t until five or so pictures in that I realized I was taking pictures of broken or dirty old globe lights. Eventually I found a pair that wasn’t broken, that wasn’t too dirty, and was possibly a replacement. I wondered why the other ones hadn’t been replaced? Money was the obvious answer, which was later confirmed when I talked to the EBS crew, but there was also another reason – design.

Design?!? Yep. A few days earlier I had been talking with Sally Rodriguez with Parks and Rec. Sally has been working for the City for over 30yrs. Our talk was mostly about who owned the plaza and who would I need to talk to in order to propose changes – that talk was very enlightening. It turns out, that the plaza is “maintained” by several parties. The fountain under the care of the Convention Center/Special Events, the green area by Parks and Recreation, the Henry Moore Sculpture and Big Red balls in the fountain by Cultural Affairs, and the plaza itself, concrete, flag poles, and globe lights are maintained by EBS. Additionally, the plaza is also patrolled by plaza security.

So, though the plaza is owned by the City at large, there are all these entities and systems that govern and shape it. Embedded in our conversation, we talked about IM Pei, the architect who designed City Hall and it Plaza. Pei also designed Boston’s City Hall and Plaza, which has a very similar, large, concrete inactive plaza. Apparently, Pei had written very specific instructions not to change anything about the design at Boston’s City Hall, and that was much of the reason why it had stayed the inactive over the years. Looking at the globe lights, a remnant of the late 70’s, and wondering if they were the original globe lights, I couldn’t help but think, why haven’t things changed?