The Crown Fountain in Chicago

Photo of The Crown Fountain in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
Photo of The Crown Fountain in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
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Photo of The Crown Fountain in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

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The Crown Fountain

Michigan Avenue at Randolph, Chicago, Illinois, Millennium Park 60601
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One of the most interesting pieces of interactive art in Chicago, the Crown Fountain at first mystifies, then embraces, and then (if you don't mind getting a little wet) immerses the viewer in art. Two 50-foot towers flank an ever-so-slightly sunken plaza. From the tower pour a continuous shower of water that fills the plaza to a depth of one-eighth of an inch -- enough to be fun, but not enough to ruin your clothes should you choose to walk through it, which is encouraged. The water pours down the towers glass block exterior in a cascade on three sides. The fourth side features banks of red, green, and blue LEDs that when viewed from a respectable distance give the illusion of projected video. During daylight hours, the faces of one-thousand Chicagoans are displayed on the towers one at a time. Each persists for 13 minutes, and during the final minute, their lips purse and a spout of water shoots from their mouths. A cascade of water falls over the faces, and a new one is revealed. These people were selected and filmed by students from the Art Institute of Chicago. They were not told they would be part of a fountain. Instead, they were instructed to act as if they were blowing a kiss. Whatever works. At night, the water does not shoot out of the mouths, and the image is not of Chicagoans, but of pastoral waterfalls and streams while the towers other surfaces glow in changing colors.

Quick Facts
  • The fountain is named for the Crown family, which contributed $10,000,000 toward its construction.
  • Each tower is made with 10,000 glass bricks.
  • The fountain uses 11,520 gallons of water per minute.
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The Crown Fountain in Chicago.  Photo by M. DeVitto
M. DeVitto
Your Thoughts

There are nine comments.

  I am a firm believer that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I would like to know what did this artist see at all inspiring about the black guy drowling on himself in an almost coma like disposition. I was and still am outraged a the potrail of the black guy seemingly on drugs with no teeth. I would like to ask the same question my 12 year old daughter asked me "what was the point" I had no answer. To my understanding this has gone on for several years (unbelievably without complaint). This is another instance where freedom of expression is used with negative intent. I ask again "what is the point"...Here's an idea change the color of the individual to a caucasian and see how long that freedom on expression will continue. "simply unbelievable".

what the H*ll - Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 @ 3:28pm  

  A charming bit of urban art, a sort of high-tech version of opening fireplugs for the neighborhood kids during a heat wave. (Or is that more New York than Chicago?) I sort of regret that the rotation of subjects did not include at least one dog, though perhaps the 13-minute sitting time would have bored all but the most phlegmatic pooch.

Alan Follett - Monday, September 17th, 2012 @ 9:06pm  

  I first discovered Jaume Plensa and fell in love with his work at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England in 2011. It was the most amazing exhibition I have ever seen - a fantastic collection of his works. It was there that I learned of the Crown Fountain in Chicago and was also in awe of that. I now have an aim and desire to travel to Chicago to see the Crown Fountain itself. I feel very privileged to have met and spoken to Jaume Plensa when he visited the Sculpture Park to talk about his work, even having a photo taken with him! I am at present visiting Gothenburg, Sweden only to discover another piece of his amazing work here - amazing. Thank you Jaume for your fantastic work, it always puts a smile to my face. No. 1 Fan!

Suzie E - Sunday, August 26th, 2012 @ 5:03am  

  this is a most fasinating experience,watching the motions of this structure. I really love it. Thanks for the memory .

amy troupg - Monday, August 20th, 2012 @ 1:57pm  

  Im a student of Interior design, and my Volume teacher just introduded us this today. Im impressed, I really think its amazing architectonically as emotionaly... I would really like to experiment that in a summer day or night :)

Imane Nadir - Monday, February 11th, 2008 @ 10:00am  

  $10,000,000 to endorse something that you can get a fine for if you are caught doing so in public. Personally, I think the fountains after which this interesting conversation piece was created were far more a contribution to the art world. However, there is no accounting for taste -- which this object d'art proves.Yet, freedom of expression should never be censored as long as it is done without harming others.So let the fountain spit as the thrill seekers get a good soaking. $10,000,000 worth.

Jim - Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 10:41pm  

  This fountain is an amazing piece. It is a great place to watch people during the summer months. I took my niece & nephew there in the summer to play.

eddie - Tuesday, May 9th, 2006 @ 1:14am  

  Way too big. Idea "cute" but who need cute that large? About i5" tall would make people GO there and paticipate--too distracting on such a large scale. I am a portrait artist and I like this use of a human face, but--too late I say CUT!

Marilyn Hayden - Thursday, August 26th, 2004 @ 7:11am