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AMENITIES: Dancing with Water

Many centers today are looking for ways to attract customers' attention, resulting in longer shopping times. Toronto-based water feature specialists Crystal Fountains believes it has the ability to make passersby stick around, "oohing" and "aahing" with a simple notion. The company contends that shoppers are indeed intrigued by the mystery of water. Fountains seem to possess a magical aura resembling a carnival attraction, drawing a crowd to see the droplets dance in their arena.

And the truth is evident at Manchester, England's Trafford Centre, where the allure of Crystal Fountains' latest creation is drawing shoppers in like a riptide.

Though all eight fountains in the Trafford Centre's collection are outstanding, one with Flipper-esque qualities stands out above others. This aquatic feature resembles a fine, handcrafted candy dish containing five bronze dolphins encircling the basin, each with its own water arc. The edges are fluted, while a channel with an egg-scalloped design directs delicate streams of water to the lower pool.

The simple, traditional beauty is eye-catching, while a spontaneous 90-foot water burst is exhilarating. This jet inspires people on upper levels to "tilt their heads to follow the water's journey," explains Doug Duff, director of creative design at Crystal Fountains. "It evokes a feeling of awe, wonder and surprise!"

No need for customers to arm themselves with umbrellas; specially designed splash mats combined with a collar of jets direct the water back into the basin, away from customers. A sound and splash suppressor above the waterline was added to tame the water's roar. This stabilizes the sound at 65 decibels, the equivalent of two people talking, so friends won't have to yell their next strategic store move at each other: "Pottery Barn or Banana Republic!?"

Bringing an outdoor feel inside, the placement of foggers just beneath the upper basin was added to mimic the look of early morning mist lifting off a still lake. "The containment of the fog within the pool area, [thus] preventing the migration of fog into the public walk ways, was a challenge," says Paul Connally, systems designer for Crystal Fountains. Although a challenge, this feature was a welcome accessory.

When all of these elements come together, the effect is mystical. Duff believes, "Water is magic because it's so fluid... its capable of creating many shapes and forms and is constantly surprising us." He continues, "Just when you think you've got it tamed... it escapes-this is magic!"

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