When I drove to downtown Los Angeles a few months ago to take photographs of Ricardo Legorreta’s glorious purple aqueduct in Pershing Square, I parked a few blocks away in a lot near the civic center.
It was a gorgeous day, so I decided to linger a while and take in Grand Park – a large, new green space stretching between City Hall and the Music Center that opened to the public in 2012 after a $56 million construction/renovation project. Of those funds, $5.2 million had been dedicated to revamping the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, which had stood for a generation but needed a facelift.
I recall seeing the fountain in the late 1980s and hadn’t been particularly impressed by anything other than its large size: It was set in a low spot – sort of a cul-de-sac within an elevated grid of roadways that marred key lines of sight and made access less than sublime. At the time, this was also a sketchy part of town – close to skid row and not reputed as a place for casual sightseeing.
The recent revisions mostly involved updating the lighting arrays and adding a large splashpad/interactive jet array to the area in front of the original fountain – more than 70 jumping spouts in all. These additions were clearly intended to bring new life and traffic to the area by night and to draw out families by day – and there would have been lots of potential on both fronts had the Great Recession not thwarted plans for major nearby condominium developments.
Even so, on the unusually warm fall day when I visited, the park was filled with pedestrians out for mid-day strolls, office workers eating their lunches, a tai-chi group swooping through its routines and a variety of tourists most interested (as I was) in recording their visits with cameras. It’s a welcoming space, and the fountain can now be seen in much more favorable surroundings while offering considerable relief both from the heat and from the noise of local traffic.
Parking was easy, too.