The spring that gave Sandy Springs its name hasn’t sprung in years, stuck beneath a metal grate in the Heritage Green park. A new design, unveiled Feb. 8, would let it bubble up as a small, glass-enclosed fountain beneath an abstract, mirror-roofed canopy.
The design concept by architects Lane and Linda Duncan came from a competition held by Heritage Sandy Springs, the historic and cultural organization that operates Heritage Green, the park between Blue Stone Road and Sandy Springs Circle. The design still needs work, but could be constructed by early 2018, Heritage officials said. The estimated $350,000 cost would be entirely privately funded, they said.
“The idea is that it’s going to be a celebration of the spring,” said Lane Duncan at the design meeting, held at Heritage Hall just yards from the spring. “The hope is that this work is reflective of the long history and culture of this place…And that it shows respect for the land itself.”
Used for decades or centuries by Cherokee, Creek and other American Indian communities, the spring in the 1840s became a watering hole for religious revival meetings by white settlers. A small community developed into what became in 2005 the city of Sandy Springs.
More specifically, the site became the nucleus of Heritage, a key cultural organization that runs a house museum and the annual Sandy Springs Festival, among many other works. The new spring design is part of a larger strategic plan for updating the site and keeping it as relevant as the city’s massive City Springs arts and park complex under construction a block away.
Today, the spring survives, though it flows with far less strength. It’s currently entombed in a five-foot-deep hole beneath that metal grate, shaded with a simple, shingle-roofed pavilion and accompanied by a bench. Heritage officials says that visitors searching for the famous spring are underwhelmed if they even notice it’s there at all.
Last April, Heritage commissioned new designs with one main mission: unbury the spring so that people can see it. The Duncans’ winning design does that, but has several other purposes as well: attracting attention; providing a small casual seating area; creating a better venue for weddings and other events; and emphasizing the spring’s connections to the landscape and history.
The new, eye-catching canopy is an assortment of slender, off-kilter columns holding up two roughly L-shaped roof panels that look different from different viewpoints. The ceiling would be coated in a reflective substance to catch light, and a square hole in the roof would center on the spring.
The spring itself would be opened up, ringed by a 42-inch-tall glass rail. A pump would ensure that it springs up about three feet in the air, and it could be lit from below at night. The idea is to have sound and light bouncing off the roof panels.
The fountain affect ensures “you can see it and feel it and hear it and be a part of it,” Lane Duncan said of the spring.
A seating area behind the spring, encircled by a low granite wall, could attract tourists and workers on lunchbreak, the architects suggested.
The adjacent Heritage Green lawn would be plowed closer to level so that chairs for events will sit upright. And the lawn would be about two feet lower than the fountain area so that it serves as the focal point.
The current concrete path along the Green’s perimeter would remain, but with certain areas landscaped with plants favored by early white settlers and American Indian tribes, as well as plantings of general native species, Linda Duncan said. Those areas could have educational signs.
Linda Duncan said she once worked with a Native American-owned architecture firm on similar projects and that she has volunteered at Heritage Green as a master gardener.
The freshly revealed spring would take care of only half of the city’s namesake. After all, as Lane Duncan said in an interview, “It’s Sandy Springs. I want to see some sand and I want to see a spring.”
A pile of sand is out of the question, he said, but paving stones with a sand-like texture is possible.
About 45 people turned out to the see the design, and those giving comments were positive, with one man likening the design to Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell display. Linda Bain, the former executive director of the Sandy Springs Conservancy, a parks advocacy group, said the pavilion reminds her of a shrine from the Japanese religion Shinto.
“It’s a wonderful, lively design. I love it,” Bain told Heritage board member Chip Emerson.
City Councilmember Chris Burnett said in an interview after the meeting that he likes how the improvement ties into the nearby City Springs arts and park complex under construction. Those projects are “going to really create this tremendous, walkable green space environment” in the city’s center, he said.
Emerson declined to give details of the two non-winning design submissions, but said, “One was too much [change] and the other didn’t change enough.”
The Duncans’ design is still in the concept phase and will undergo more work on engineering and material details. Because Heritage Green is a city park, the project will eventually require approval from the City Council. The council and Mayor Rusty Paul already privately viewed the design, Heritage officials said.
More images of the Duncans’ spring design can be seen below. Photos by John Ruch.