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Water Fountains for Urban Play

Ontario's Yonge Dundas Square Award-Winning Water Fountains

Yonge Dundas Square in downtown Toronto Ontario features an array of water fountains designed by Dan Euser of Waterarchitecture. Opened to the public in November of 2002, Younge Dundas Square is situated at the crossing of Yonge Street and Dundas Street, opposite the Toronto Eaton Centre and just south of the Ryerson University campus. Unlike many other urban fountains, the fountains at Dundas Square are specifically intended for water play. Dundas Square is often referred to as an “urban beach,” or “urbeach” design.

Two rows of ten fountains are spread across the main walkway of the square, intended for visitors to opt to walk through the fountains, or around them. They include a sophisticated filtration system that treats and maintains the water at or above the standards of pool quality water. Each of the ten water fountains comprises a stainless steel grill with thirty ground nozzles arranged in three rows of ten underneath it—for a total of six hundred nozzles. The height of the spray is programmed to be time-varying, with several different programs that may be alternated. Currently, since October 2004, the fountains have been running a program that matches the speed of a jogger running westward through the square at a rate of 5.6 meters per second. The fountains run in a phase velocity of bursts, allowing a jogger to run through the fountains and enjoy a matching wave packet of water spray. During the summer and fall of 2004, the nozzles ran on a program of uniform rising and falling, with a period of approximately ten seconds per burst, creating a “surf” sound as the water pounded the ground in unison, contiguous with the urban beach theme.

The rock surface of the square is a very dark color, effectively absorbing sunlight and creating a warm surface for resting while heating the water by solar power as it runs under dark stone slabs.

Since the fountain is intended for water play, with many people drinking from the fountains and filling up water bottles also, the water is tested every morning by the health department. The water is treated with bromine as part of the overall cleansing process, which takes place in three different facilities, one for each group of nozzles (east, center, and west).

The Dundas Square fountains generally run twenty-four hours a day from April through October; the square is one of only two public aquatic play areas in Toronto open around the clock. (The other is in front of the Ontario Science Centre, the centerpiece of Teluscape.) At the end of October, the fountains are shut down and “winterized” (shut down, drained, and sealed up so that water inside does not freeze and cause pipe breakage.)

In 1999, Dundas Square received the Award of Excellence from Canadian Architecture magazine, recognizing the public space as an outstanding example of contemporary architecture. In 2000, Architecture magazine awarded the design with a Progressive Architecture citation, commending the square’s design as a new form of urban space with great presence, pushing the limits of invention and originality.

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Water Fountains for Urban Play