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Open thread: Why on earth do you love the Vaillancourt Fountain?

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“A giant concrete dog with square intestines”

Vaillancourt Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza in 2012.
Vaillancourt Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza in 2012.
Photo by Ernest McGray, Jr.

Armand Vaillancourt’s eponymous fountain. The most brutal brutalist work in San Francisco, this tentacled gusher, which once hugged the Embarcadero Freeway pre-demolition, provokes many reactions. Usually ones of disgust and disdain.

When Curbed SF published this piece about how it will take roughly $500,000 to turn the fountain’s spigot back on, readers had concrete thoughts about the boxy fountain crumpled in Justin Herman Plaza.

For example:

Vaillancourt Fountain and the Embarcadero Freeway in 1988.
Vaillancourt Fountain and the Embarcadero Freeway in 1988.
Photo via Wikicommons

“Utter monstrosity of purposefully unaesthtic material mangling,” quipped Thomas Goldfinch.

“This is the ugliest fountain I have ever seen,” said Tom Taber.

“I [heart] brutalism,” wrote keenplanner, “but not this fountain.”

And when it was completed in 1971, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Allan Temko likened it to something “deposited by a giant concrete dog with square intestines.”


But not everyone feels that way, right? Surely some of you secretly swoon over this stark beast?

San Francisco Chronicle urban design critic John King, for example, says in Cityscapes 2 that the fountain’s original context, which lended it some continuity, has since been erased.

The fountain in 2017.
The fountain in 2017.
Photo by Alan Grinberg

King notes, “The juts of concrete offset the decks behind; the turbulent water spilling from them masked the grind of traffic above.”

And there is at least one person on the Curbed SF masthead [Ed. Note: Hi!] who admires it. But what about you? Do you admire Vaillancourt for its beauty? Let us know why.