3 Questions with Chris Roy, Director of Creative Design, OTL, Inc.

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OTL Director of Creative Design

1. Why do developers and architects want fountains in their projects?

Water is featured in projects in a variety of ways, for myriad reasons. Culturally, there is a long tradition of fountains as the central element of important plazas and parks. With water being a paramount necessity for life, there are far-reaching associations between water and wellness and good fortune. It’s in human nature to want to be close to water, and to congregate around water.

Our psychological and physical need and respect for water are why fountains continue to be built as prominent centerpieces or welcoming elements for projects today, even though they are no longer used as public sources of drinking water. Fountains help transform a space into a more inviting environment, encouraging visitors to stay longer. People visit parks for the sake of experiencing wonderful public spaces, and enjoying the beauty of a timeless fountain has long been an experience favored by many.

This psychology is very much at play in retail, hospitality, and theme park environments too, where revenue is generated by visitors. The longer visitors stay the more likely they are to spend in each destination.


The primary impact of well-designed water features in private-sector settings is increased traffic leading to increased sales and revenue.
Chris Roy, Director of Creative Design for OTL.

OTL recently created a show fountain at the Legacy West development in Plano, Texas, which helped the center’s public space quickly become the centerpiece of the $3 billion mixed-use project. Today, guests crowd around the fountain for its its scheduled shows, which blend music, lighting, and a grandiose water display with choreographic precision, an experience that attracts thousands of people each week.

2. How can a developer or owner derive value from an iconic fountain or water show?

Beyond attracting guests, iconic fountains and water shows can deliver an economic impact to developers and owners during leasing by creating a “waterfront” destination that can command premium rents.

At a recent symposium discussing entertainment in the retail environment, a prominent developer spoke about his company’s experience with a recently-completed mixed-use lifestyle center featuring a large-scale choreographic show fountain; their fountain was a driving force in activating the main plaza and drawing repeat visitors, and giving them the opportunity to capture leases 10% to 20% above local market rates.

Many food and beverage shop owners are willing to pay premium rents for patio space in front of an iconic water show as this is seen as the premier property on a project, and diners want to eat and drink at a table with a great view of the fountain. As these choice tables fill up quickly, patrons show up early to get a good spot and often the increased table time leads to additional purchases.

3. What makes a fountain iconic?

An iconic fountain is one that is widely recognized within the community in which it is built, and in many cases, beyond the community in which it is built. Great fountains become a public meeting spot, a landmark, and are often the signature element of a given place. Many people, for example, can instantly form a picture of Rome’s famed Trevi Fountain in their mind’s eye; few can recall the surrounding architecture or piazza.

A key element in creating an iconic fountain is scale – it has to have a commanding presence. Of course there are many wonderful small fountains – but iconic fountains are large. They are monumental in scale, and exquisite in their detailing. When viewers look upon a great fountain, they should have a sense of awe, and feel that they are experiencing something special.

Creativity is also key in building iconic fountains. The artisanship of the designers as well as the craftspeople responsible for construction of the fountain should be evident. Care must be taken to maximize the potential and excitement of the water. Effects should be designed to showcase the character of water, enhancing characteristics such as reflection, refraction, color, motion, splash, and spray.

For musical show fountains, getting the timing and mood right is of utmost importance; choreographing a fountain is very much akin to choreographing a ballet. To ensure maximum creative input and process control during show programming, OTL recently brought our water show programming in-house so that it can properly be practiced as an art. When the movement of water and light are in perfect harmony with a song, and the water is able to embody the lyricism of the music, it becomes an event that visitors remember for a long time.

While a well-designed and constructed fountain will become a beloved amenity from the beginning, local familiarity enhances the iconic presence for great fountains over time. Ultimately, creating a landmark fountain is a win-win scenario of property owners and visitors alike; a signature fountain is a draw for the public and can enhance a project’s unique sense of place, and visitors are filled with joy upon creating new memories with each experience and with the fountain and surrounding project.

Chris Roy is the Director of Creative Design for Outside the Lines, Inc. In this role, he leads the company’s design efforts, working with developers, architects, and landscape architects, as well as engineers and vendors. Contact him at ChrisR@otl-inc.com.

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