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