The kings, cardinals, emperors, and Presidents of France who have lived in and loved Paris have had centuries to make Paris into a beautiful city.
They’ve razed entire sections of the medieval town, built sweeping boulevards, turned palaces and royal gardens into public buildings and green spaces for the common man, and erected monumental structures, triumphal arches, and engineering marvels. And, equally important from my perspective, they’ve built fountains — lots and lots of fountains.
Paris has some of the greatest fountains in the world. It seems like whenever you turn a corner in an unknown neighborhood you find another fountain of striking beauty. Some feature mythological figures, some feature animals, and some feature bishops and snarling lions. But all are beautiful, and all seem to be surrounded by people whenever you walk past.
Why are people so attracted to fountains? I think it is because the Parisian fountains are, without exception, beautiful and interesting to examine. There is a certain pleasing whimsical quality to fountains, whether it is open-mouthed turtles shooting heavy jets of water at four women representing different continents holding up a globe or angry lions seeming to dare passersby to come one step closer to the gushing water. And there is something about being near tumbling water that is both soothing and cooling. Who wouldn’t want to sit next to a fabulous fountain and read a book during a lunch hour break?
I’m sure that fountains are incredibly expensive to build, maintain, and operate. But if the city fathers and urban planners in Columbus are looking for a way to draw people to a particular area — say, to the newly constructed Columbus Commons space, for example — they could do a lot worse that build an attractive, more traditional fountain in that area. Forget about just putting a few chairs and tables on a plaza, and start thinking about rushing water, and minotaurs and griffins, and maybe Christopher Columbus and other explorers on boats. I’m convinced that when you are talking about fountains, if you build it, they will come.