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BREATHING ROOM

The roar of the water, the din of the traffic

June 26, 2003|David A. Keeps

Being caught in the Los Feliz-Riverside-Griffith Park-5 Freeway bottleneck is one of the city's circles of summer traffic hell. Fortunately, there is an oasis of light and water, mist and percussion: the William Mulholland Memorial Fountain.

Grand in scale but simple and pleasing to the eye, it is a symmetrical melding of classical curved tiers and rectilinear Deco spouts, with a bas-relief of stylized waves and an outer pool lined in icy turquoise tiles.

Designed by Walter Claberg and built in 1940, the fountain is a fitting tribute to Mulholland -- engineer of the aqueduct that irrigated Los Angeles -- who once lived in a shack near the site. The fountain, an early example of mechanical waterworks, has sprinklers and nozzles that stage an exuberant choreography of spurts and splashes. They're illuminated by a rainbow of color, evoking the awe of Fourth of July fireworks every night of the year.

Often visited by newlyweds and girls celebrating their quinceaneras for memorable photo ops, the Mulholland fountain is also a place for quiet repose, ringed by stone benches and white rose bushes.

Even as a drive-by, the roar of water over the din of traffic and the view of the towering evergreens of Griffith Park through the white spray are a sure cure for commuter blues.

-- David A. Keeps

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