Grand Intervention: Smart Fountain

Grand Avenue Intervention:
Submission Gallery

Urban Organism: Smart Fountain 

Submitted by Jenna Didier & Oliver Hess, infranatural, Silver Lake

Imagine that Los Angeles is a big living organism; imagine our homes and our bodies as integral parts of that organism and now imagine using the most important resources: sunlight, water, fresh air, and our own labor to keep the whole system healthy and balanced. What if our civic park at the center of Los Angeles could create a sense of awe within each visitor and a realization of the connectedness of us all?

What if the park created possibilities for positive interactions between visitors: with each other, with total strangers, with other families ? while showing how crucial resources can be conserved by our own participation? We propose a water circulation system which collects, filters, and stores rainwater then uses it in a series of smart fountains that interact with and inspire visitors to the park.

In striving to achieve and maintain a city that is as unified as a single organism, a Grand Intervention
must happen in the design of public and private facilities alike. Lets take inspiration from visionaries like Frei Otto and Buckminster Fuller whose designs follow clues from natural systems. One thing learned from natural systems is that no one thing has only one function. For instance, a tree is not just a tree – it provides shade, ideally, it provides edible fruit, it provides habitat to many creatures, it provides nutrients back to the soil from leaf litter, it cleans the air of carbon dioxide and emits oxygen, its roots even serve to retain soil and aid in slowing down rainwater as it sheets across the soil which encourages infiltration into the ground.

Envision as William McDonough and others do that everything we build or manufacture could have
multiple benefits like trees do. One element that we would help with this approach is water. Water is so scarce here much of the year, but then falls in great deluges that we drain as quickly as possible to the gutters and off to the ocean where it pollutes the coast. We should follow Bill Roley’s advice and ?slow it, spread it, sink it? to recharge groundwater and eliminate pollution of the LA river and the coast. If all sixteen acres of the proposed civic park captured water that fell on the land and stored it in great cisterns underground, the park would have all the irrigation water it needed for the year ? but that’s not all! Filtration and recirculating systems would clean a portion of the stored water to public health standards and could be used to fill fountains that create points of visitor interaction and water gardens that provide urban habitat.

Fountains in the park would provide all the benefits that fountains normally do: provide areas of soothing sounds, delight at the sight of running water, and respite from the heat and the hustle of the city. But they will not stop there: they will react to visitors and respond to their gestures ? enticing them to join in games with the water as well as each other.

We hope the park could be a self-sustaining system that would inspire visitors to change the way they view their place in the city and also how they might change their own habits, appreciating the natural drought-tolerant foliage of Southern California and learning ways to get the most out of water. Los Angeles has always been in the industrial vanguard producing rockets, cars, planes, special effects, and of course, much of the world’s entertainment. Many of these industries cross paths in the newly emerging fields of interactive interfaces. We have developed a ?Smart Fountain? that is aware of the actions of the visitors around it. The configuration of jets or pools of water can be designed as the park evolves in the master plan. The key component to the concept of the fountains is that they are responsive to the people and the city ? as visible nerves within the giant organism of the city.

If the eyes are the window to the soul, perhaps fountains here could be windows to the hidden functions of the city and the invisible bonds between all of us. It is possible for fountains to reflect and to respond to the stimuli of visitors to the park or even the status of traffic congestion on the roads or of air quality. There are few limits and many engaging possibilities for relating people to their unseen relationships within the city organism.