When people walk the world-famous Third Street Promenade for the first time, there’s absolutely one thing most have to do to make their visit official — take a picture seated at one of the water fountains topped with the iconic dinosaur topiary sculptures.
The six dinosaur sculptures, designed by French artists Claude and Francois LaLanne following an extensive public process during the creation of the Third Street Promenade in the mid-1980s, are so popular they’re even mentioned on a list of pre-historic attractions in Los Angeles that includes the Natural History Museum and its impressive collection of complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons.
While not as durable as their once roaming inspirations (dinosaurs are said to have stomped all over the planet for millions of years), the sculptures are still in relatively good shape for having been exposed to the elements for the last 26 years. The same cannot be said for their fountains, which are in need of some upgrades.
Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. has been working closely with the city of Santa Monica to breathe new life into the dino fountains and there is finally money in the budget to make it happen. The City Council, as part of its end-of-year budget adjustment, has dedicated roughly $400,000 to renovate the fountains.
(A rendering shows how the fountains will look following the makeover.)
“The Third Street Promenade was created in 1989 and ever since it opened it has been a tremendous success, attracting roughly 16 million visitors a year,” said DTSM, Inc. CEO Kathleen Rawson. “But with that comes natural wear and tear. Routine maintenance and infrastructure upgrades are needed to ensure the promenade remains ‘Santa Monica’s Living Room,’ for many years to come.”
In April 2016, DTSM, Inc. hired Suisman Urban Design, which designed the promenade’s new map cases and decorative pylon at Wilshire Boulevard, to reimagine the fountains. There were multiple rounds of discussions with the city and the DTSM, Inc. Board of Directors before a final design scheme was approved.
The scope of the project can be broken out into three overarching components: materials and color; lighting and electrical; landscaping and planters.
The existing, original cast stone cladding will remain but will be treated. Called “Presto,” the finish is a lithocrete material and can be applied to all surfaces of the existing cast stone. The design strategy is to transition from a dominant red-brown color to a more neutral gray palette in keeping with the rest of the promenade furnishings. Additionally, the Presto finish will cover up water stains and cracks.
The interior surface of the fountain basins will be finished in a light blue hue. The current brown-and- green tone of the materials makes the water appear muddy. A lighter color, plus additional mosaic tiles around the lip of the fountain, will give the water a more refreshing look as well as cover up existing blemishes.
The four submersible lights embedded in the fountain basins will be replaced with newer LED lights. Existing cylindrical pedestal lights and light fixtures found at the corners and ends of the medians will be demolished and removed.
In an effort to bring more greenery to the promenade, an additional planter will be constructed on each side of the dinosaur topiaries.
Construction is expected to commence sometime in February or March of 2018 and last for four months.
To pay for the project the council is using money from the city’s General Fund, which ended the fiscal year with an extra $10.9 million thanks to a combination of more revenue than anticipated ($4.5 million) and cost savings ($6.4 million).