14 August, 2009

Fountain of Controversy

The City's residents are still divided in their opinions about the Vaillancourt Fountain in the Embarcadero's Justin Herman Plaza. It's been almost 40 years since this provocative piece was unveiled in the, at the time, deserted plaza at the foot of Market Street. Described by architectural critic Allan Temko as something, "deposited by a concrete dog with square intestines." the fountain is the work of Quebecois sculptor Armand Vaillancourt. The official title of the work is "Quebec libre !". In November of 1987, the fountain was notoriously defaced by U2 singer Bono at a free concert in the plaza. To the horror of then Mayor Dianne Feinstein (and a good number of San Franciscans), he spray-painted the words "Rock & Roll stops the traffic" on the structure.
The fountain has had some ups and downs over the years. There have been several attempts to have it removed and it has gone through periods of neglect when it sat without water due to funding, water-shortage and plumbing issues.
Presently, it's in fine form and seems to have found, if not love, at least acceptance as part of the beautiful and very busy Embarcadero scene.
I've always liked it. It worked very well with the old Embarcadero Freeway behind it, but it still has heaps of character.
Deep trivia note: In the 1968 film "Bullitt", a model of the fountain can be seen, briefly, in the background at Jacqueline Bisset's character's office.
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