Ok, picture this…

you are on vacation. The sun is shining. It is warm, almost hot.

You feel the energy of life from a buzzing city. You feel, hear, smell, and see a seemingly endless body of water. You come upon a larger than life piece of artwork literally flowing with water in the middle of a beautiful park. It draws you in and you are mesmerized.

How amazing is the human experience!?!?

I don’t know about you, but these types of encounters make a lasting impression on me and my life. That is the feeling I have when I experience the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago on a summer day. Not many experiences are able to lift me out of my daily life distractions and transcend me to higher or more philosophical plane. When that happens, I relish it. Inspiration!

When visiting an art museum, my personal preference is for sculpture. I love the 3 dimensional aspect and imaging the artist’s hands creating the piece. I try to imagine how I might go about creating it, if I were so talented. I can really connect to it.

I also feel a deep drawing towards water. Who doesn’t? Oceans, lakes, rivers, and rain are all great. Many find enjoyment in long showers, baths, and pools. My family pets are even an assortment of fish in a large aquarium. Not to mention how a full cold glass of water tastes when you are overheating.

Combing these two favorites of mine, sculpture and water, leads to fountains. I’m really fond of fountains. So let’s dig a little more to see what makes fountains and the Buckingham Fountain such a powerful experience.


Humans and Water: a special connection

You would think that man should have the water-human connection thing all figured out by now. I mean, water has been around for quite a while, am I right? *smirk* Water is everywhere, from the clouds in sky to covering most of the earth to the insides of our bodies. Everywhere.


Anyway, there has been some interesting work done in only the past few years. Scientists are not only looking at the properties of water under certain conditions or how to get clean water to the people of the world, but what water means to humans on another level. They are starting to look at what influence does water have on a mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical level. Cool stuff.

There is a book recently released that talks in great depth about the water-human connection. If you want to learn more about it, you may be interested in reading Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do. It is written by Wallace J. Nicols and you can find his website, wallacejnicols.orgSalon.com also has an article from Wallace J. Nichols with an excerpt from the book.

Santacruzsentinel.com has an interesting article with quotes from several scientists. The most interesting I found being the discussion from Philippe Goldin, a neuroscientist and clinical psychologist from Stanford University. He speaks of how water can bring about a state similar to mindfulness where the mind is very aware of one’s surroundings and emotion. I can really understand the link to mindfulness and yoga, which I personally enjoy.

Huffingtonpost.com examines the Blue Mind book mentioned above. It breaks down the benefit of a “blue mind”. The benefits as listed in the article are:

  • Water gives our brains a rest
  • Water can induce a meditative state
  • Water can inspire us to be more compassionate and connected
  • A blue mind is a creative mind
  • Exercise by or in water is good for our bodies and brains

The findings discussed seem to be what a human instinctually knows, but now there are some studies to back it up. It is still challenging to get hard science on the impact of stimulation on the brain, but there are definite strides that are giving us some information. This all sounds very familiar with the identification of an introvert, am I right?

What I do know, for sure, is that I really enjoy looking at fountains.


Buckingham Fountain, the exhibit

The fountain is officially named the Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain and is located in Grant Park in Chicago. It was a gift from Kate Sturges Buckingham in memory of her late brother. Designed by Edward H. Bennett, it opened in 1927.

Constructed from granite and pink georgia marble, the fountain deisgn symbolizes Lake Michigan. Four art deco sea horses represent the states encircling Lake Michigan: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. It was inspired by the Latona Basin in Versailles, but is much larger.

During operating hours, it runs 20 minute displays. These include music, lights, and the water jets shooting the large spray of water 150 feet high. Initially, the water displays were manually operated by 2 engineers on 12 hour shifts. Can you imagine? It wasn’t until 1980 that it was fully computerized.

Here are some of the dirty deets:

  • 3 pumps
  • 134 jets
  • 820 lights
  • 1.5 million gallons of water capacity
  • water is re-circulated, water added only for loss due to evaporation and wind
  • bottom pool is 280 feet diameonly ter
  • center jet shoots water 150 feet high, and feels great with the wind blowing the water on a hot day

What a sight! It is considered the front door to Chicago, which makes it quite the welcome mat. Luckily, Chicago is great and can match the expectation set by the great fountain.

Why you should visit? It will lift you up. It will ground you. It will inspire you. What more could you ask for?


Other Fountains you should consider visiting

In case you are really getting into this whole fountain thing and can’t make it to Chicago, I compiled a list of great fountains.

Because I am not as traveled as I would like to be, my list is a compilation of most acknowledged fountains from various “top fountain” lists. See the Resources at the end of the article to find the sources used to generate my list. Please note: The links associated with each fountain is just an interesting site regarding the fountain, not necessarily an official link of the owners of the fountain.

Honorable Mentions: my own additions to the list

  • Crown Fountain in Chicago, Illinois. I make this an honorable mention because if you are in Chicago to see the Buckingham fountain it is just a short walk to the Crown Fountain. It is different from anything I have ever seen. It is entertaining to watch people react to it.
  • Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, London. I make this an honorable mention because it wasn’t on any list I saw. I think it really deserves a spot on at least one list. I really enjoyed my time visiting this fountain because it is so peaceful and serene. The feel you get from it is spectacular and makes you not want to leave it.

As you may have noticed, the Fountains of Bellagio is the only fountain in the USA on my list. So sad. The Buckingham Fountain was in the next contender for a spot on my list, but it just didn’t have enough widespread acknowledgement to make the list. So in terms of accessibility, especially to those in the midwest, the Buckingham Fountain is the way to go. One more reason to visit.


Test out the waters

Do you enjoy fountains as much as I do? Or do they make you feel like a fish out of water?fountain

I would recommend you find a local fountain or be more adventuresome and seek out some further from home. You can also preview some online and see which appeal to you the most. I gave you some links in this article, however, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Are all these water sayings leaving me in deep water? Ok, ok, I won’t make any more waves.*wink*

If you have visited a fountain that was really cool, let me know about it in the comments.




Nichols, Wallace J. Blue Mind: the Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Do. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2014.

Spectacular fountains from around the world from webdesignerdepot.com

Famous fountains from fountainsinthecity.com

10 Incredibly Beautiful Fountains Around the World from hotelclub.com

10 Most Famous Fountains In The World from 10mosttoday.com

10 Most Breathtaking Fountains in the World from oddee.com

15 of the world’s most spectacular fountains from cnn.com

Scientists discuss ocean’s effect on the brain from santacruzsentinel.com

Why Being Near The Ocean Can Make You Calmer And More Creative from huffingtonpost.com

Why our brains love the ocean: Science explains what draws humans to the sea from Salon.com

Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do and other very interesting resources via Wallace J Nicols from wallacejnicols.org.

Wonderful facts and figures on Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain from chicagoparkdistrict.com