The River (artwork)
An international design competition was held for a central water feature in the square, which was won by Dhruva Mistry. Construction commenced in 1992 and was completed in 1994, when the square was officially reopened by Diana, Princess of Wales.
Mistry's fountain is the largest sculptural piece in the square. Mistry's winning design for Victoria Square consists of four sets of works (named The River, Guardians, Youth and Object [Variations]), representing youth and eternity. The River features a 1.75-tonne bronze statue of a woman, 2.8 metres (9 ft) tall, 2.5 m (8 ft) wide and 4 m (13 ft) long. The surrounding pool is paved with Wattscliff sandstone. Engraved in the rim of the upper pool by Bettina Furneé are the following words from the poem Burnt Norton by T. S. Eliot:
And the pool was filled with water of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
The water in the pool flowed at a rate of 12,000 litres (3,000 gallons) per minute into a lower pool, in which is another bronze sculpture, Youth. This sculpture is 1.5 m (5 ft) tall and 1.5 m (5 ft) in diameter, depicting a boy and a girl facing each other at either end of a fountain. Beside them are an egg and a cone. The surrounding lower pool is also paved with Wattscliff sandstone, on the floor of which is a bas-relief of six large salmon. The combination of The River and Youth won a Fountain of the Year award in 1995.
A water leak from the fountain occurred in November 2008 and as a result it was only switched on for special occasions and maintenance. After a £300,000 restoration in 2010 the fountain was turned back on. The work also involved the installation of a new multi-coloured lighting system. After another leak occurred, the water was turned off in 2013 to save costs. As of 6 July 2015, the main pool was filled with soil and bedding plants and no longer functions as a fountain.
On either side of the fountain are two large sculptures collectively known as Guardians. The sculptures – made from the same Darley Dale stone as the Council House – are 3 m (10 ft) high, 2.5 m (8 ft) wide and 5 m (16 ft) long. The sculptures are not identical and take features from a variety of animals. They have been derided in the past for having faces like characters in the children's television series Thomas and Friends. On either side of these sculptures are two obelisk-shaped sculptures collectively known as Object (Variations). The sandstone sculptures are 2 m (7 ft) tall and 0.5 m2 (5 sq ft). The two obelisks were initially refused by the city council, as they were deemed unnecessary; but Mistry – who declined to comment on their meaning – urged the council to reconsider, and they were later approved. They now act as lampstands in the square.
- "The River". Birmingham City Council. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- Parfect, Michael; Power, Gordon (1997). Planning for Urban Quality: Urban Design in Towns and Cities. London: Routledge. p. 174. ISBN 0-415-15968-7.
- Noszlopy, George T.; Waterhouse, Fiona (2007). Birmingham Public Sculpture Trails. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 978-1-84631-134-5.
- Noszlopy, George T.; Beach, Jeremy (1998). Public Sculpture of Birmingham: Including Sutton Coldfield. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. pp. 147–150. ISBN 0-85323-682-8.
- "Birmingham's 'Floozy in the Jacuzzi' unveiled after £300k facelift". BBC Online. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- "Birmingham welcomes back the Floozie". birminghamnewsroom.com. Birmingham City Council. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- Cannon, Matt (6 July 2015). "Birmingham's Floozie fountain swaps Jacuzzi for flowerbed - Birmingham Mail". Retrieved 6 July 2015.
- Noszlopy & Beach (1998), p. 21.
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