By Jim McCloskey
When the weather cooperates, Seattle is a breathtaking place. I particularly enjoy approaching the city from the water: The skyline is backed by tall mountains and offers lessons in scale, proportion and visual integrity you just don’t get from a typical cityscape.
My very first visit to Seattle, however, took place long before I had reason to venture out onto Puget Sound, so my appreciation of the lay of the land was shaped primarily by ascending in the Space Needle and getting a 360-degree view. I was with Pool & Spa News at the time, in Seattle to cover a meeting of NSPI’s Board of Directors in the late 1980s.
I didn’t have much time for independent sightseeing, but I managed to visit what was left of the grounds of the 1962 World’s Fair and for the first time saw the International Fountain. It was not at its best in those days – its 27-foot-diameter dome was a bit down at the heels and the water display was less than crisply functional – but it was nonetheless an interesting counterpoint to the pointy vertical drama of the nearby Space Needle and made a positive impression.
Fast forward several years: In the mid-’90s, the powers that be stepped up and brought in WET Design to refurbish the International Fountain and bring it fully up to date. Working in collaboration with the landscape architects at Kenichi Nakano & Associates, the fountain designers worked their magic, replacing the old firehose-style nozzles with all sorts of modern jets and misters – including four jets that send bursts of water 120 feet in the air.
Where the old fountain had been separated from direct contact by its surrounding landscape, the revamped fountain is now encompassed in a play deck specifically designed to draw visitors (especially children) right up close. It was formerly an imposing space; now it is a sublimely welcoming one – very much worth a visit if business or pleasure takes you to the Pacific Northwest.
For a video showing the fountain in action, click here.