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THE WIZARDS OF WET : Even the Staid Take Delight in High-Tech Magic of Burbank Fountain Company

September 29, 1988|SUSAN HEEGER

In such a way, a recent lab meeting involving Kahn, Robinson and Fuller brought about new lighting for a "water table" (a glass-topped fountain that flattens water spray into star-like patterns).

Sometimes the firm must turn down client requests--most commonly, Robinson said, for "the tallest fountain in the world."

WET discourages such novelty for its own sake. "Someone can always build a taller fountain. We want our work to last as long as the architecture around it," Fuller said.

Once a design is developed and engineered, the WET staff hands a project to contractors but visits building sites to supervise installation. The firm also offers a comprehensive maintenance program since, Robinson said, "You don't spend enough to buy a sophisticated aircraft and then turn it over to a guy who sharpens lawn mowers."

Looking ahead, staff members dream of seeing WET technology applied to medicine (physical therapy, for example), innovative water theme parks and water toys. Already, WET has one toy on the market, "Splatter Up," a baseball game manufactured by Worlds of Wonder.

Drought Concerns

During this time of drought, the Music Center fountain, with its myriad jets spewing water up to 15 feet, has been criticized, Fuller said, "for just looking extravagant."

But, like all WET features, the Music Center fountain operates with recycled water--less than a home swimming pool holds. And, Robinson added, "It gives pleasure to a lot more people."

Lacking pedestrian barriers and operating on one of WET's whimsical computer programs, the fountain encourages children and even tux-clad theatergoers to plunge in.

"Why not?" Robinson chuckles. "It's the ultimate run-through-the-sprinklers experience."

Heeger is a Woodland Hills free-lance writer.

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