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UCLA

Waterworks Down: The Inverted Fountain Story

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Published Jul 1, 2010 10:00 AM


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The Inverted Fountain has been a popular recreational ground for students since its inception in 1968. These students in the 1970s tested out their cannonballs before measures were taken to cut the depth of the pool, limiting such play. Image from the files of the UCLA History Project.

UCLA's Inverted Fountain was supposed to be your typical water-upward deal. But Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy challenged UCLA's architectural landscape team to do something other than "squirt water into the air," recalls principal designer Howard Troller.

Actually, Murphy's challenge was, in fact, a necessity. A wind tunnel in Franz Hall Court would have sprayed the fountain's water in all directions, potentially showering unsuspecting passers-by. For inspiration, Troller turned to a childhood memory — Yellowstone's bubbling mud pots and hot springs.

Time Trip

Next time you're on campus, visit the James West Alumni Center and browse UCLA Through the Years, an exhibit featuring snapshots in time and artifacts from UCLA's past. On view indefinitely. Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit the UCLA History Project.

On March 18, 1968, Troller's vision became reality. Unlike traditional fountains, the water of the Inverted Fountain flows inward across a bed of multicolored rocks, handpicked by Troller in Claremont, Calif.

The current then meets at an off-center well, creating a miniature waterfall plunging into a 12-foot-wide, 5-foot-deep center that recirculates the water at 10,000 gallons per minute. The water's movement adds the natural, yet distinct, sound of a flowing mountain stream to the south end of campus.

It's also added a waterfall's worth of Bruin traditions, some of which may even be true. Although we're a little skeptical of the one in which, during orientation, freshmen are "initiated" by being told to wade in or touch the water, and then forewarned that doing so again before graduation will tack on an extra quarter to their academic career. That's why you might see graduating seniors wading into the Inverted Fountain to celebrate their last final exam, water guns in tow to blast nearby underclassmen.

At least, that's how we heard it.

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