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Fountain Stage in Manhattan Square Park

by Peter Sigrist

While visiting my parents over the holidays, I stopped by a park near the center of Rochester, N.Y., where I spent a lot of time as a child. I remember its unusual playground with long, wide slides that you could run and jump onto, landing halfway down before reaching their sandy base. We saw Garth Fagan Dance, Arlo Guthrie and Ahmad Jamal perform there for free on summer evenings. There was an observation deck at the top of a giant steel lighting apparatus for shows in the courtyard below. I never thought about how this unusual place came to be.

Source: Landslide 2008: Marvels of Modernism, an exhibit by The Cultural Landscape Foundation

The official name is Howard Hanson Plaza in Manhattan Square Park. It was designed by Lawrence Halprin in 1972. The steel structure is a sculpture by Kerro Bruegging, titled "Tribute to Man." The park was part of an urban renewal project initiated in 1968, which included demolition of a residential neighborhood to make room for the Inner Loop expressway.

Lawrence Halprin's Lovejoy Fountain Park in Portland, Ore. Source: Pika 69 | Fort Washington Park

The park hasn't been a great success. The fountain proved too expensive to maintain, the restaurant didn't seem very popular and the concrete surfaces never became comfortable. As much as we loved playing in the plaza, it was also kind of hazardous. I remember a girl in my kindergarten class having to get stitches after stepping on broken glass in the wading pool. The design is inexpedient, but maybe its bright points can be preserved or redone in a way that functions better in use.

This is part of a collection of featured places from around the world. If you’d like to share photos of a place you find interesting, please add them to the Flickr group or send them to info@thepolisblog.org and we’ll publish your feature. Video and sound recordings are also welcome.

Credits: Photos by Peter Sigrist unless otherwise noted in the captions.

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