Artworks
Hyatt on Union Square Fountain

Sr. Editor

Apple loses battle with Ruth Asawa's Union Square Fountain.

Commissioned in 1970 by the Grand Hyatt Hotel that sits behind the fountain. You can see the hotel's initials (HH) on the front.

 

Asawa built a replica staircase in her yard so that the fountain and the hundreds of miniature sculptures on it would fit in perfectly with the stairs in front of the Hyatt.  Using baker's clay, the artist looked to house guests and school children for models. The sculptures were then cast in bronze.

 

Can you spot the Jefferson Airplane tribute? Other things that can be found on this piece: Lombard Street, Charlie Brown, The Grateful Dead, Superman, and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

There are 41 individual bronze plaques, about 26 x 32 inches each, covering the 43 feet encompassing the fountain. If you are looking at the center 'HH', the city is loosely divided in fourths in relation to Union Square: south is to the left, north to the right, The Pacific Ocean at the top and the Bay at the bottom.

 

In what started to become a David vs. Goliath situation, this fountain was slated to be "relocated" and replaced by Apple's thoroughly unimaginative new flagship store. Needless to say, there are many critics and they are not pleased.

 

Update: Bowing to public pressure Apple's architects have revised their plan and submitted new drawings that move the fountain a few feet over. 

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Ruth Asawa's San Francisco Fountain

Ruth Asawa's San Francisco Fountain, or sometimes simply San Francisco Fountain, is a 1970 bronze sculpture and fountain by Ruth Asawa, located outside the Grand Hyatt San Francisco in downtown San Francisco, California, in the United States. The cylinder-shaped sculpture, which serves as the outer wall of the fountain basin, features bas-relief scenes of San Francisco, "whimsically interrelated".[1] It measures approximately 90 inches (2.3 m) tall, with a diameter of 193 inches (4.9 m), and is set into a base of brick stairs. Albert Lanier served as the architect; credited assistants include Aiko Asawa, Haru Awara, Mae Lee, Mei Mei, Hector Villanueva, and Sally Woodbridge.[1]

Writing in The Journal of Modern Craft, Sue Archer described the genesis of the fountain:

(Asawa) became involved with the fountain project by chance: architect Chuck Bassett of the firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill happened to see an exhibition at the California Redwood Association that featured sculpture by Asawa as well as work by some of the children who attended the Alvarado Elementary School. Bassett was part of the design team for the new Grand Hyatt San Francisco, and wanted to find an artist to help realize an engaging design for the fountain that was to sit just in front of the hotel’s entrance. The children’s work in the Redwood Association exhibition had been crafted from a substance Ruth called “baker’s clay,” an inedible mixture of flour, salt, and water, which could be worked like real ceramic and then “fired” in an ordinary oven. The children’s works depicted scenes from daily life at Alvarado. Charmed, Bassett suggested that Asawa work with children from different parts of the city to create a large, low-relief for the fountain’s exterior. The cast bronze cylinder that resulted bore the efforts of children and friends of Asawa’s, including leaves fashioned by Ruth’s mother, Haru Asawa.[2]

The work was surveyed and labeled "treatment needed" by the Smithsonian Institution's Save Outdoor Sculpture! program in September 1992.[1]

In May 2016, Apple Inc. completed construction of a new flagship store on the northwest corner of Post and Stockton Streets. The project included renovating the public space located between the new store and a hotel on the southwest corner of Sutter and Stockton Streets. The renovated public open space now includes wooden tables, chairs, planters with trees, a “living wall," a new mutil-color “LOVE” sculpture and Ruth Asawa's San Francisco Fountain. Some restoration and preservation work on the fountain was done as part of the project.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Ruth Asawa's San Francisco Fountain.