Is It Really Worth $1000 a Day to Pump the Water of Vaillancourt Fountain?

What makes the water in Vaillancourt Fountain (aka Québec libre !), that boxy water sculpture down in Justin Herman Plaza, go? Natural gas, most likely. All that methane energy gets converted into electricity and that’s what powers the pumps.

Of course it costs money – a quarter million per year back in aught-four, back when ‘lectricity was cheaper. So is it a reasonable guess that the bill is substantially higher these days?

Here it is, at its most beautiful, as captured by the talented David Yu:

Click to expand

What is this thing, a monument to graffiti?

What does it say to you, “Canada out of Québec,” or something?

Is this thing destined to burn money and take up space in perpetuity, all because some people, some people lost to history, made a bad (or good, You Make The Call) decision four decades ago?

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12 Responses to “Is It Really Worth $1000 a Day to Pump the Water of Vaillancourt Fountain?”

  1. PC Easy says:

    I always feed bad for the Quebecois who has to suffer with an Opposition party that has only one objectif; sovereignty.

  2. Philip says:

    The sooner that monstrosity makes its way to a landfill, the better!

  3. sfcitizen says:

    Those 700 tons o’ metal cost about $700K back in the day – maybe we could get some of that back by recycling this thing….

  4. Jamie says:

    Are you kidding? It would be worth $700K to have it hauled away.

  5. Erin says:

    Agreed. I work in Embarcadero Square, and I’m embarrassed to walk by it everyday.

  6. Michael Johnson says:

    My favorite comment on the fountain was in a Herb Caen column. One of his contributors had walked past the fountain with his little girl, who had never seen it. She said, “Oh, Daddy. What happened?”

  7. sfcitizen says:

    Yes, that’s a good one!

  8. kitkitdizze says:

    Wow! I’m the only one here who not only likes, but loves, this sculpture/fountain? Well, I’m used to this lonely position. as none of my friends like it. I’m not on a crusade, but do offer an alternative view. First, remember that when the Vaillancourt Fountain was built, the site was a dark, noisy, toxic corner Justin Herman Plaza hard by the double-decker Embarcadero Freeway. The fountain actually softened the far end of the plaza, both visually and aurally. OK, that’s just a historical note. My real defense: while I like the crazy twisted shapes as sculpture, its potential to delight most people depends on running water. On a summer day, when the fountain is working, watch the pleasure visitors take–especially, but not only children–in walking under falling water and hopping from pad to pad in the pool. This isn’t a fountain for looking at, it’s a fountain for being in, walking though, looking down upon. It’s interactive. It’s engaging. It’s delightful. This was my first reaction when the fountain opened: My friends an I, all teenagers, thought it was the crazy, zany, wonderful, urbane (“There’s nothing like this in Atwater!”)–in short, delightful. I still feel that way and have never ceased to enjoy watching children playing with the fountain (for that’s what you do, you play “with” it). Especially when it is a true fountain, i.e., when the water’s running.

    True, it’s too bad Vaillancourt has only one good side, the back side being a dull wall that formerly faced the freeway. But with appropriate attention by creative people, this can be finessed. Historically, the Vaillancourt is

  9. kitkitdizze says:

    Wow! I’m the only one here who not only likes, but loves, this sculpture/fountain? Well, I’m used to this lonely position. as none of my friends like it. I’m not on a crusade, but do offer an alternative view. First, remember that when the Vaillancourt Fountain was built, the site was a dark, noisy, toxic corner Justin Herman Plaza hard by the double-decker Embarcadero Freeway. The fountain actually softened the far end of the plaza, both visually and aurally. OK, that’s just a historical note. My real defense: while I like the crazy twisted shapes as sculpture, its potential to delight most people depends on running water. On a summer day, when the fountain is working, watch the pleasure visitors take–especially, but not only children–in walking under falling water and hopping from pad to pad in the pool. This isn’t a fountain for looking at, it’s a fountain for being in, walking though, looking down upon. It’s interactive. It’s engaging. It’s delightful. This was my first reaction when the fountain opened: My friends an I, all teenagers, thought it was the crazy, zany, wonderful, urbane (“There’s nothing like this in Atwater!”)–in short, delightful. I still feel that way and have never ceased to enjoy watching children playing with the fountain (for that’s what you do, you play “with” it). Especially when it is a true fountain, i.e., when the water’s running.

  10. city artist says:

    I admire many artworks and interpetitive design by the many voices out there but must admit this fountain looks as though it is the remnants of a collapsed civilization and not a very good representation at that. I appreciate the water features of this fountain and the joy it may give those that use it , especially children, perhaps a redesigned feature may incorporate that. However, not all public art is to remain for eternity specifically with its high cost of operation and general oppostion to it. Now that the bayfront has a fresh face shouldnt the art reflect that as well ?

  11. sfcitizen says:

    Testify!

    Anything would be better than this, IMO….

  12. Dr.Grumpy says:

    Nice pic. But, when I saw it last weekend the water did NOT look like this picture. It’s a murky, smelly green. We wondered if it was ocean water, which would make sense. But, the water was not very pleasant.
    For a $1000/day I suggest doing away with the real (bad) water and putting 60″ LCD screens at each opening with videos of nice clean, clear Hetch Hetchy water from Yosemite.