Feature Article - November 2005
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Destination: Landscape

Nurturing visitor interest through creative park design

By Kelli Anderson

Wet attractions

Perhaps nothing is so enticing to a landscaped space, however, as the magic of water.

"A space is not alive until there is some water in it," Gellner says, describing the draw of hundreds of people a day to Levi Plaza Fountain in San Francisco. The time-tested fountain, built in 1978, is a fantastic array of waterfalls, water walls, paddle streams and watery stairways that continue to attract lunchtime workers for a soothing break from their days' activities.

Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park features towering video screens that flash images of faces from which streams of water spray unpredictably from the images' mouths. The fountain's watery show is an obvious delight to watchers who squeal at the opportunity to get wet, while others splash in the fountain's shallow base and play in its additional spray features.

All over the country, water fountains are breaking free of their formal, quiet confines. They now dance to music, include light shows, and incorporate spray and splash features with stepping stones, inviting shallows and watery trails. And people of all ages are coming to experience them.

Fun factor

Sculptures, statues and structures are another way to add to your interactive landscape. The Cloud Gate in Millennium Park invites interaction.

"You see people looking in wonder," says Kim Reeve, a resident of Wheaton, Ill., visiting the park. "It was fun to see people interact with it—you go inside it and look up and see that it mirrors the city upside down. People are taking pictures of themselves taking pictures and others are touching it. It's so whimsical."

Temporary attractions also can be tempting to crowds. Although we tend to think of sculptures as fixed features, they aren't always permanent. They can move and change. By offering competitions to decorate and display everything from statuesque concrete or fiberglass cows, couches, giant mushrooms and faux people, communities have taken sculptures and created something akin to performance art as patrons sit on and next to quirky creations-on-display. Parks take on new life and new visitors as these temporary displays appear in fun and unlikely places. Besides hoping to draw curious visitors (often to pump up downtown locales), some communities even have found that such sculptural seasonal events can help raise money for a charity or pad the community chest.