The Source

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Client: The City of Carlsbad

Location: Carlsbad, CA, United States

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $115,000

Project Team

Artist

Jenna Didier

AtelierDIDIER

Landscape Architect

Leigh Kyle

Spurlock Landscape Architects

Engagement assistance, indigenous advisor

Esmi Rennick

AtelierDIDIER

Contractor

Leo Fuller

Del Mar Building Company

Overview

The permanent public artwork anchors a city block-sized new park for the City of Carlsbad, California. The artwork is 60′ x 60′ x 20′. Materials: municipal potable water, steel, stone, concrete, native willows, flowering vines, native milkweed.

Goals

The public artwork seeks to balance the stated desires of the community that will use the park, while acknowledging the native people who still live in the vicinity and in its own small way, bolstering the pollinators who may be passing through by offering them native willows and milkweed to eat and nectar from flowering vines. At its center, a child-sized drinking fountain springs up between two locally-sourced boulders, offering even the smallest child the opportunity to drink and play in municipal drinking water with the hope that early memories of the importance of this water will encourage them to grow up to protect and champion their own local drinking water and the watershed that should replenish it. Runoff from the drinking fountain seeps into a dry well at the center of the artwork irrigating the surrounding willows so that they might flourish.

Process

The inspiration for the willow dome structure emerged from the goal of encouraging cyclical thinking regarding our natural resources. Research led from European-style willow domes to regional examples of Native American structures. Kumeyaay, Nawat, and Wirarika advisers guided the approach, methods and materials sourcing and harvesting to construct this dome. The willows were planted by the artist and a community of 40 locals during a ceremony led by an indigenous guide assisted by a local botanist specializing in restoration.

The design reflects the input of community members responding to questions I posed regarding their city and what makes it unique, what resonates with each of them. Answers ranged from the beauty of the sunsets to the abundance of flowers and (historically) fruit and citrus trees. A large community garden plot is part of the new section of the park and is within 100 feet of the public artwork, so an additional consideration became how to support and nurture the efforts of the gardeners. Each component of this project is built from materials sourced as close to the job site as possible.

Additional Information

The generous Indigenous People who advised me in the construction of this project call water “The Source” – it is the origin of all life. For this project, I did extensive community engagement at each critical phase of the project from inception through completion, gathering as I went the stories, ideas, insights, knowledge and resonances of the people who have lived in and around Carlsbad, California for anywhere from 6 months to thousands of years of ancestry.