Crown Fountain CR IMG 9632 copy

Crown Fountain

Chicago, IL


Fast Company - Innovation by Design / Honorable Mention: Timeless Design

AIA Chicago — Ten Year Award

AIA Chicago Chapter, Divine Detail

Chicago Architecture Foundation, Patron Of The Year

Midwest Construction, Project Of The Year

IESNA Chicago Chapter, Illumination Design Award

AIA National Honor Award

Chicago Innovation Award

Archi-Tech Best Overall Award

IALD International Lighting Design, Award Of Excellence

Photography: Steve Hall | Hedrich Blessing | Cesar Russ

Although this is perhaps our firm’s highest-profile project, our role in it is hidden in plain sight.

We were asked to resolve a series of complex technical challenges to fulfill the Crown family’s desire to offer a gift to the city of Chicago and bring to life Jaume Plensa’s concept for a 21st-century fountain. The task required mastering and coordinating its parts — including LED technology, glass, and water — impeccably and invisibly.

Since day one, the public has wholeheartedly embraced this open, welcoming, and inspiring space. Well into its second decade, it is, in Plensa’s words, “an explosion of freedom.”

It succeeds by allowing all who encounter it — residents and visitors, young and old — to have their own experience: be that to sit back and contemplate, or to jump in and play.

Constructed over two underground parking levels, the tower structure resists gravitational and wind forces with an internal stainless steel t-bar that frames each glass block.

The stainless framing system is the structure, not the glass block. The frame is completely concealed because of the internal refraction of light on the glass block.

Crown Fountain 18
Crown Fountain 19
Crown Fountain 05
Crown Fountain 06
Crown Fountain 07

“Of all the scenes that have played out since Millennium Park, this is the one that says the most: children race around the black granite reflecting pool of the Crown Fountain, waiting for the giant human faces projected onto twin glass-block towers to spit their jets of water.

[But at the Crown Fountain], the atmosphere is raucous, festive, and above all, interactive. It’s the difference between architecture as an object and architecture as an event."

Blair Kamin, Terror and Wonder – Architecture in a Tumultuous Age

​The two five-story translucent glass monoliths, with water that cascades from the top of each tower, are equipped with sophisticated LED displays.

1000 Chicago faces alternate on the LED display, periodically pucker their lips and spray a deluge of water on to anyone standing below — a contemporary interpretation of playful gargoyles.

Crown Fountain 11
Crown Fountain 02