The Ruth Asawa San Francisco fountain at Union Square has received a lot of attention lately, given that Apple, Inc. would like to put a new Apple store where the old Levi store was at the corner of 37.788522,-122.406793&spn=0.012159,0.022895&sll=37.787878,-122.408102&sspn=0.012159,0.022895&hnear=Post+St+%26+Stockton+St,+San+Francisco,+California+94108&t=m&z=16">Post and Stockton. (John King at SF Chronicle wrote a decent article about the changes proposed by Apple, but since I refuse to link to SF Gate anymore, you’ll have to google that one for yourself).
While I’m sure plenty of “in-the-know” San Franciscan’s knew just how awesome this fountain is, I had never really taken a close look at it.
It’s an incredibly charming and whimsical fountain that does a great job of highlighting so much of what makes San Francisco awesome without being a bunch of visual clichés. The whimsical approach she took to building the fountain makes it all so incredibly approachable and interesting. Even though I’ve lived in San Francisco for over a decade and visited many of the locations and buildings on her fountain, something about her style and the way she put them together just made me smile.
If you take the time to read the plaque that accompanies the fountain and sculpture, you’ll learn that during the construction of the fountain and sculpture, over 100 kids helped out with the design and modeling. It was Ruth Asawa’s desire to show “what many hands working together could do,” that led her to involve children in the fountain’s design and creation.
And while the whimsical Haight-Ashbury street sign, Victorian homes, and landmark buildings are all wonderful reminders about what makes San Francisco a special place to live, her decision to emphasize what many hands working together can accomplish is perhaps the part of this fountain that most resonates with my experience of living in San Francisco.
San Francisco is changing. But I’m glad that change won’t come at the expense of losing an incredibly beautiful and playful piece of public art. Regardless of if you go visit the new Apple store, make a date with yourself to visit the Ruth Asawa San Francisco fountain. You won’t regret it!