Bruce Deachman, Ottawa Citizen
Yet another piece of the Lansdowne Park puzzle was put in place Friday morning, as deputy mayor Mark Taylor officially opened the “water plaza” and accompanying public art installation, promising “another space in this modern urban park where families and friends can come together to celebrate our community.”
“They’re like lasers!” shouted five-year-old Nolan Gauthier in describing the 55 jets that send water in gentle arcs as high as perhaps a foot off the ground.
Nearby, a trio of nine-year-old boys paused briefly from their enthusiastic running of the aquatic gauntlet to offer the middling, too-cool-for-school “comme ci, comme ça” hand gesture to describe the water plaza, before returning to their definitely not-middling fun.
“It’s kids and water,” remarked Richard Clair as he kept watch over his three-year-old grandson Lucas Gemmell. “What’s not to like?”
Then he added exactly what’s not to like: the structure boasts a number of hard sharp edges that at the very least will provoke some tears over the summer months. And he joked, too, that he found the sculpture, titled Uplift and made by Vancouver artist Jill Anholt, almost as stark as something you might expect to find in, say, a monument to victims of communism.
“The sharp parts really bug me,” he said. “Someone’s going to crack their head on it.
“But I really like the fountains, and look at the kids – they love it. It reminds me of the old times, when kids jumped back and forth through a sprinkler. It’s a hoot, and the big kids AND little kids both seem to enjoy it.”
Susan Major was at Lansdowne Park with seven-month-old daughter, Grace, for her first visit since the massive facelift began. “It’s really beautiful,” she said. “I used to come to the Ex when I was a little kid, but this makes more sense, to have it used year-round for everybody in Ottawa. I think it’s gorgeous.”
Nicole Varshney showed up at the water plaza with her children Maya Collin, 8, and Jay Kumar Collin, 4, after hearing about Friday’s opening on the radio.
“It’s a nice change from the regular splash pads,” she said, although Maya, while admitting she liked the plaza, was not quite so generous: “I like pools better,” she said, “and usually splash pads have a spout that shoots water in the middle.”
But most of the youngsters there Friday afternoon said they liked the water park without being able to articulate precisely why beyond “I don’t know.” (Or, as 10-year-old Ana Carolina noted, “It’s really cool because when it’s really hot, you get to cool down a bit.”)
Similarly, many of their parents confessed to liking Anholt’s roughly 13-metre sculpture, also without knowing exactly why. Major, for example, couldn’t say if she agreed with Anholt’s assessment, from the artist’s website, that the sculpture’s “form, location and iconic scale … will contribute to the development of a strong civic identity for Lansdowne Park.”
“But it sure stands out,” she said, “and I like it.”