Few British royals have ever captured the hearts of the public as quickly and as completely as Princess Diana. From her debut on the world stage during her 1981 marriage to Charles, the Prince of Wales, to her untimely death in a Paris car crash in 1997, the world was obsessed with Princess Diana. In 2004 a memorial fountain, honouring the life of Diana, was unveiled in Hyde Park in London. Initially plagued with controversy, today the fountain offers joy – and an excellent way to cool off during the summer months – to the thousands who visit the fountain every year.
The memorial fountain was designed by an American landscape artist, Kathryn Gustafson. The artist wanted the fountain to be easily accessible to the public to reflect Diana’s “inclusive” personality and to reflect the fact that she was seen as an ‘accessible’ figure to the public. The fountain cost £3.6million to construct and was pieced together using 545 separate pieces of granite from Cornwall.
Although it is referred to as a fountain, it is actually more of an oval-shaped stream. The fountain is circular and runs around a patch of grass around 50m by 80m (165ft by 260ft). The stream itself is around 3m to 6m (10ft to 20ft) wide at different points. The stream is shallow and water is pumped from a slightly elevated part of the fountain, pushing the water down either side of the circle. The fountain is not smooth and consists of numerous cuts, elevated steps of different sizes, false ‘rocks’ and smooth pieces, but the bottom part of the fountain is a tranquil pool.
All of the different effects and textures built into the stream are said to represent the parts of Diana’s life: the turmoil, and the happy times. In fact, there is a lot of interpretation about the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. In addition to the above, many believe the circular formation represents the circle of life, a Mobius strip, life vs. death, or even a meaningless endeavour. The circular formation was also intended to be a path for the public to walk through to aid in contemplation and relaxation.
The fountain also came under some criticism because of the cost that was spent. Many people questioned the will of Princess Diana – would she have wanted over £3million spent on a fountain to reflect her life? Many doubted that would be the case. Controversy also raged over the name of the fountain, with many complaining that the word ‘fountain’ wasn’t actually applicable to the memorial at all.
In addition – the fountain was the source of controversy and embarrassment within mere days of opening to the public. Unfortunately, the fact that the fountain was made to be accessible to the public meant that a number of accidents took place when the fountain was initially opened. Shortly after its debut to the public, the fountain was the cause of three hospitalisations of people who had slipped in the water – some breaking their ankles-, while walking along the circular route. It was also complained that leaves of nearby trees were floating into the water and making it unsafe for visits to tread through. The initial reaction to this was to close the fountain to the public – surrounding it with a fence and manned with personnel to keep visitors out. However, that was quickly abandoned and today the fountain is again accessible.
- Address: Hyde Park, W Carriage Drive, London W2 2UH
- Nearest Underground Station: Knightsbridge Station, Lancaster Gate Station or Marble Arch
- Nearest Railway Station: Paddington Station
- Bus Routes: NUMEROUS – 2, 9, 10, 14, 16, 19, 22, 36, 38, 52, 73, 74, 82, 137, 148, 414, 436
- Cost: FREE
- April to August – 10am – 8pm
- September – 10am – 7pm
- October – 10am – 6pm
- November to February – 10am – 4pm
- March – 10am – 6pm