Case Studies 

Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.

*Nominee 

Uncle Wilber Fountain

Colorado Springs

CO

USA

Contributed by 
Craig Johnson
Project for Public Spaces
 on 
February 28, 2003
December 14, 2017

This water-spurting, tuba-playing fountain has contributed greatly to the revitalization of downtown Colorado Springs.

What makes it Great?

Why it doesn't work?

When the water is off, Uncle Wilber is hidden inside what appears to be a giant, bright blue bubble. But as the water pulses into the fountain, he slowly rises - sousaphone in hand - from the mosaic concrete pedestal and begins to dance and spout water to the giddy sound of piped-in tuba music. The performance lasts for 6-8 minutes and occurs hourly between the months of May and September.

Even on temperate days, the Uncle Wilber Fountain is overrun with children playing under its waterfalls or hopping among the geysers that erupt from the curbless foundation surrounding the platform. On any given day, it attracts around 2,000 people. The fountain also has helped transformed the surrounding Acacia Park from a former hangout of transients, drug-dealers, and homeless into a lively venue for families, children, and downtown shoppers.

Access & Linkages

Located on the corner of two main downtown streets, the fountain attracts attention from pedestrians, passing cars, and users of Acacia Park.

Comfort & Image

The fountain is blessed with numerous places to sit right outside of its spraying zone. The atmosphere is festive and the fountain and park provide ample opportunity to sit, eat, and relax. Because the mechanisms of the fountain are so complex, regular maintenance must be done to make sure that Uncle Wilber is in fine tuba-playing order.

Uses & Activities

In the summer, the fountain attracts children thrilled to play in the water, as well as those who like to observe the action. On most days, teenagers from the local high school, families, and the elderly sit on the benches and watch the action unfold. In the winter, the fountain becomes more of a piece of art, but the benches around it stay occupied all year long.

Sociability

The fountain and the children playing in it generate much conversation among observers. The light atmosphere of the fountain adds much to the sociability of the space as well. Since it was built, the fountain has become a major attraction in downtown Colorado Springs.

How Light?

How Quick?

How Cheap?

History & Background

The fountain cost $1.2 million to build and was financed primarily by the Smokebrush Foundation, a local non-profit organization. Private donors funded the plaza and benches around the fountain, while the fountain's upkeep is maintained by "Friends of the Fountain," a non-profit group formed by the Smokebrush Foundation.

Related Links & Sources

Uncle Wilber Fountain
All images courtesy of UncleWilber.com
Uncle Wilber Fountain
Uncle Wilber Fountain
Uncle Wilber Fountain
Uncle Wilber Fountain
Uncle Wilber Fountain
Uncle Wilber Fountain
Uncle Wilber Fountain

*Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.

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