When New York’s Lincoln Center opened in 1964, the columns of water bubbling from its center were the most technically-advanced water features known to man, controlled by “computer-programmed tapes” and able to propel a six-foot wide wall of water into the air. Fifty years later, the fountain began to falter, yet “liquid architecture” had since evolved beyond our wildest (wettest?) dreams, mostly thanks to one Mark Fuller, and his company WET. So it was a natural choice for the folks behind Lincoln Center’s fountain facelift to tap the man who revolutionized the way we interact with water.
A piece in this week’s New Yorker by John Seabrook explores the fountain’s revamp and Fuller’s aquatic genius, beginning with an early trip to Disneyland that encouraged the construction of his own “jungle cruise” in his Salt Lake City backyard (precariously mixing water and electric current for underwater lights!). He later got a job with Disney as an Imagineer, where he built the famous “leapfrog” fountains at EPCOT, then started WET in 1983, where his team could engineer, fabricate and program all proprietary technology–like “Shooters” that can propel water up to 500 feet into the air–on-site in its Sun Valley, California studio. Even nearby Hollywood is in awe of his talent: The choreographed Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas were apparently dubbed by Steven Spielberg as “the greatest single piece of public entertainment on planet Earth.”
Unfortunately, it seems as if Fuller’s work was reined in a bit for Lincoln Center; he tells Seabrook that he was cautioned against being “too Vegas.” (Reynold Levy, director of Lincoln Center, explains it this way: “We didn’t want something that would take away from the 8 p.m. curtain.”) Which is apt, really, since Fuller’s five new pieces at CityCenter are probably the most remarkable water-works on the planet but get about a half-paragraph in the piece (which was likely written months ago). To check out the wonders like WET’s Glacia ice sculptures, 15-feet pillars that slowly melt into a black pool in CityCenter, check out our tour with Fuller of the water features at CityCenter, where he got to pull out all the stops for true water showstoppers.
Photo by Eve Sonneman