Crown Fountain
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Crown Fountain is sculpture royalty at Millennium Park.

This brainchild of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa involves two 50-ft tall LED screens displaying faces staring, smiling and spouting out water at each other. Between them is a black granite surface covered with water a few centimeters deep, though it stretches out 232 by 48-ft. The water helps by converting a terrifying black abyss into a relaxing reflection of the Chicago sky. The faces of 1,000 different people having the world’s longest water fight is sweet, especially with kids playing in the water below on a hot summer day.

However, there were doubts that Plensa’s fountain would be such a loved part of Millennium Park. Each face displayed belonged to real Chicago natives that were invited to participate by the School of the Art Institute. The volunteers found themselves sitting awkwardly in a dentist chair, making odd faces at a video camera. One volunteer said, “They had us blow; make a hole with our lips. It was quite an afternoon.”

The architects involved in the construction of Plensa’s piece were nervous it would come off as tacky. His early sketches included large amounts of water spewing out rapidly from the top and sides of the screen to imitate hair. It’s probably safe to assume someone put their foot down at a certain point. Michael Lash, the city’s previous public art director, also raised concerns that the work was trying to compete with Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and he didn’t want to turn it into a “pissing contest.” But through hard work, dedication and $17 million, the installation was completed all without any lingering bad blood (and Lash was fired for throwing a cell phone at a coworker).

The fountain has recently been reopened after several months of renovations in early 2017. It definitely isn’t 2004 anymore. Remember those dark times of holding your Motorola Razor in one hand and your Ipod Classic in the other? Chicago city officials are hoping their screen update will show they’re finally catching up with the times. The screens are now 2.5-in thick and show brighter resolution, a definite upgrade from their previous 30-in thick faded screens. Just in time to compete with the blinding summer sun.




  1. David Matthews, “Who Are The Faces On Crown Fountain?” DnaInfo, 5 May 2017. park-fountain
  2. David Matthews, “‘Magical’ Crown Fountain With New Video Returns to Millennium Park,” DnaInfo, 21 April 2017. millennium-park-faces
  3. Jake Malooley, “At its tenth anniversary, Crown Fountain remains a wellspring of questions,” Chicago Reader, 11 June 2014. millennium-park-tenth-anniversary-1004-portraits/Content?oid=1388
  4. “The Crown Fountain,” Millennium Park Foundation.