The Brooklyn Museum

We went over to check out the new entrance plaza for the Brooklyn Museum on Sunday, and we were absolutely thrilled. It’s one of the best new public spaces in the city, and a rarely successful modern addition to a classical building. It’s welcoming, open and airy, with many places to sit, and lots of grass and trees.

Best of all, though, is the fountain. a playful series of about 20 water jets that perform an endlessly interesting set of moves, synchronized to an almost unnoticeable percussion soundtrack. It’s hard to describe in writing, but the moves are paced and choreographed like fireworks: small little waves go back and forth, or sudden spurts go off in sequence, using the slap of the water on marble as a sound effect, and then the whole thing builds up to a crescendo with water going fifty feet in the air and all the kids running away laughing and screaming as they get soaked by the spray.

The fountain itself is set at the foot of what the museum calls “Brooklyn’s largest front stoop,” a wood-and-concrete amphitheater that will be a great performance place (especially once they finish the project, since the corner of Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue is still a big pile of dirt, or actually mud, given the nearby fountain).

It’s a relief to see a project like this built on a human scale for people to use and enjoy. I hope the Ground Zero memorial people are paying attention, so we don’t repeat the mistakes that created the dreadful World Trade Center plaza. Obviously they’ll be looking for a different mood, but hopefully not as forbidding and unfriendly as the original.

And yes, it’s back to being called the Brooklyn Museum, not even ten years after changing its name to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. It’s part of a little-known Brooklyn aid program for underemployed branding consultants.

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