'Traditional' California Ave. fountain favored in voting

Szabo 'sculptural' alternative favored heavily by non-resident voters

A traditional, partly recycled fountain design for the end of California Avenue has gotten the most votes in an online advisory poll.

The fountain design by Jennifer Madden and Jeffrey Reed -- who designed the "Sun Flowers" sculpture down the street in front of Country Sun market -- received 213 votes in online voting.

A slender sculptural design by Michael Szabo came in second with 182 votes. Szabo was the previous winner in a public-art vote, for his "Arch Cradle" sculpture in Mitchell Park in 2007.

The third alternative for the fountain replacement, an abstract design by Mark Oldland, received just 24 votes.

But a close look at the results indicates that 52 of the votes for the Szabo fountain were from persons who identified themselves as from "outside Palo Alto," reducing the "inside Palo Alto" votes for Szabo to 130. Five outside voters were for the Reed/Madden fountain and four were for the Oldland proposal.

Some non-resident comments came from as far as the East Coast.

The deadline for voting was noon Tuesday (Jan. 18), and the online-voting totals were quickly made available on the city's website, The Palo Alto Public Art Commission is scheduled to meet tonight at 7 p.m. to discuss the vote results and choose between the fountains.

The Madden and Reed fountain would reuse material and design elements from the current (no-longer operational) fountain, refurbished with additions such as seating around the rim and an inscribed quotation.

"I like that this proposal recycles the old fountain. This appeals to my sentimental side (as a long-time fan of the fountain) and seems to best reflect Palo Alto's efforts to green-ify. Plus, you can never go wrong with a Gandhi quote and the fountain-edge seating is a great idea," Palo Alto resident Rebecca Wrenn wrote in a comment field with her vote.

In addition to praising the design for keeping close to the current look and being a lower-cost option, some commented on their desire for the gushing fountain water -- not a sculptural element -- to take center stage.

"I like that it is similar to the old fountain and that the water is a very prominent feature of the design," Peter Stonestrom of Midtown wrote.

A fan of the Szabo design favored its modern look.

"Palo Alto is in a perpetual change. It is a modern city turned toward the future, and creativity. So a modern design seems to be a good choice for a fountain. The fluidity and the movement of the design is a good reflection of the ever-changing environment of Palo Alto," Cecile Eltherington of Greenmeadow wrote.

One East Coast resident, Leon Hovanesian of Rhode Island, wrote that Szabo's proposal "showcases this city's emphasis on culture and art by giving California Ave. a presence that is both aesthetically beautiful and artistically dynamic." Hovanesian said he is with the Rhode Island School of Designand travels often to Palo Alto to recruit art students.

The Oldland design had a few fans.

"I liked the playfulness of this and the idea that metal would reflect the sky and weather conditions," Midtown resident Nicole Heller wrote.

The public comments can be viewed at Open City Hall.

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Like this comment
Posted by Great choice
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I like this choice for a fountain. The more modern alternatives just don't fit in that area. The chrome/silver look was in stark contrast with the predominantly earth tone building exteriors. Additionally, the current and likely newly selected fountain will provide an added benefit of white noise to the neighborhood which reduces train noise.

Great choice neighbors.

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2011 at 11:20 am

I didn't find the voting location when I took a minute to search it out, however I'm thrilled that others agree with my perception.

I notice that the Public Art Commission will make the decision. I hope that the predominant vote for option "A" combined with the recycling, green and predominance of the water element will make this the final selection.

Like this comment
Posted by Eli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I would have voted for the Szabo sculpture. It has the traditional softness with a modern twist.

Like this comment
Posted by JO
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Thank you Ellen Wyman for leading the effort that forced the City to put the brakes on the previous Art Commission selection and gather input from the community. Now we'll see if the Art Commission will listen to that input.

Like this comment
Posted by Gail
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Let's just sit back and watch the Public Art Commission spit in our eye, and not listen to the will of the people. Oh, I forgot, the Commission thinks they are more sophisticated than the peasants living in Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 1:08 am

Can't we get a semi-normal looking piece of artwork in Palo Alto ... these fountains look like Romulan starships in the Star Trek movies.

You know, what I like and think is fun to watch is the fountain over at Shoreline theaters that has a lot of sprays directed inward to the center where they are hit and dance around in the wind ... what is wrong with something cool looking, that makes noise and has some aesthetic form to it, instead of these passe abstract weirdo metallic monstrostities?

Like this comment
Posted by Are you kidding?
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 22, 2011 at 12:46 am

First of all, what percent of PA voted?? Less than one percent... So HOW is it even relevant there were some votes from outside of PA? This "public opinion" seems to be the trivial agreement of one group of grandfathered-in tasteless one-the-way-outers.

Second, your fountain rocks Szabo.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

"After seeing photos of this location, I was struck..."
Quote from designer of Fountain #3 (Oldland). This one came in a distant 3rd, but I was shocked that the Commission would seriously consider a fountain designed by someone who's never been to its planned location.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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