Why is there a dry fountain in the Redmond North campus?


One of the things that may strike you if you visit Microsoft's Redmond North campus is that there's a large, dry fountain outside the cafeteria. Why isn't the fountain running?

The Redmond North campus was purchased from Safeco, and with the purchase, Microsoft obtained title to a fountain whose design had two fatal flaws:

  1. It had chronic and serious problems with water leakage.
  2. It was built atop a parking garage.

Having large quantities of water dripping into a parking garage is not a good situation, and the Facilities people shut off the water and drained the fountain to prevent any further water damage. Further investigation revealed that the problem was quite serious and was not a simple fix. In fact, things were so bad that repairing the fountain was ruled out as an option. To bring a fountain back to the area, the old fountain would have to be removed, the existing garage shored up to support the weight of a large fountain as well as making the joints waterproof, and then a new fountain designed and installed, an undertaking which is, shall we say, "not cheap."

Given that the Redmond North campus has drainage problems during the rainy season¹ as it is, you definitely don't want to compound the problem with a leaky fountain.

Consensus has yet to be reached on the unofficial nickname for the dry fountain. Some people call it The Moonscape; others call it The World's Largest Zen Rock Garden. But so far, the leader in the naming competition appears to be simply The Broken Fountain.

Whatever its name, the dry fountain remains, a desolate tribute to bad civil engineering.

Pre-emptive snarky comment: Microsoft itself is a giant tribute to bad engineering.

¹Standard Seattle joke:
Q: "When is the Seattle rainy season?"
A: "It runs from January 1 to December 31."

Comments (27)
  1. nathan_works says:

    So has anyone there done any goofy pranks with the empty fountain ? Filled it with paper mache boulders and blue-plastic spouts of water or something ?

  2. DriverDude says:

    Facilities should put the fountain’s blueprints on display in front of it, perhaps with their engineering report explaining all the flaws, next to it.

    That’s the Open Source way.

  3. Gabe says:

    I would just replace the thing with a sculpture.

  4. Xepol says:

    If it rains so much and the fountain leaks so badly, one wonders at the faulty logic in not removing the thing and tossing in some employee friendly sod, or in fact, a real zen rock garden.

  5. Michael says:

    The map link you gave and the article in the Seattle Post-Intelligence say the lot is in two different places.

    Locating the lot shown in the Seattle PI article gives the following location: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&ll=47.652741,-122.134758&spn=0.001165,0.002701&z=18

    Is it that rocky thing in the cluster of trees on the map I’m looking at, or the fountain that appears to be working on the map in your post?

  6. Mark says:

    Michael: which one has a cafeteria? (Hint: look for the umbrellas).  Or take a look at http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&ll=47.652741,-122.134758&spn=0.001165,0.002701&z=18

  7. Tim Dawson says:

    Ha ha! I do enjoy your pre-emptive snarky comments.

  8. bryden says:

    Oh, so fountains take water, here in Melbourne, Australia we don’t have enough water to be able to operate the fountains, so we have a city with a multitude of ornate non-operational statues.

    Although I must say it’s amazing what can be done to make a fountain look like it was just a funky sculpture all along.

  9. Cooney says:

    I think you’ve got something with that rock garden comment. Put in some coarse white gravel and get an oversized wooden rake and have fun with it.

  10. Marcel says:

    "Brokeback Fountain" anyone? Hmmm? Hmmm? What, too obvious?

    For some reason all maps.live.com addresses given don’t work here (tried 4 different browsers including IE) :( Guess that’s because they’re forcibly forwarded to maps.live.DE here?

    Not trying to be snarky, but at least the Google links all work…

  11. bdodson says:

    @marcel – brokeback fountain is pretty funny

    I was thinking something like "The Fountaindead"

  12. My preemptive snarky comment would have been something like, "with all the cash MSFT and Gates has, such an undertaking should be a mere pittance."  Think of how many job it would create.  Plus think of all the money Gates isn’t spending not letting his kids have Apple products (iPod, iPhone, etc)

  13. John Muller says:

    Hmmm, in the last week:

    "How does Raymond decide what to post on any particular day?"

    Discussion about the queue.

    "The Suggestion Box is for suggestions, that’s why it’s called a Suggestion Box"

    Reenabled adding items to the queue.

    "Do QueryProcessCycleTime and QueryThreadCycleTime include cycles spent in kernel mode?"

    The shortest entry in my recollection.

    and now:

    "Why is there a dry fountain in the Redmond North campus?"

    An entry about a resource being empty…

    I’m sensing a theme here.

  14. Larry Hosken says:

    I was hoping for a backwards-compatibility story.  This is, after all, The Old New Thing. Like maybe there was someone who always parked in a leaky spot in that garage so that they could get a free car wash.  And then they complained when their free car wash stopped.  And that’s why Raymond had to rig up a garden sprinkler at this one parking spot.

    I mean, it’s a good story the way that it is and all.  I’m just saying it could have been more thematic.  And it’s not too late to sneak in there with a garden sprinkler!!1!

  15. Falcon says:

    Marcel: +1 on “Brokeback Fountain”, I had the very same idea!

    About the maps.live.com links: I noticed the same thing in Australia (substitute “.au” TLD, of course). I found out about a workaround, which is to add “&mkt=en-us” to the URL. Just tested it and it worked :-D

    [Thanks for the &mkt=en-us tip. I’ve updated the link in the article. (And “Brokeback Fountain” is such a horrible pun…) -Raymond]
  16. I think we should have a contest to come up with a good and reasonable idea for something to do with the dead fountain.

    Like… replace it with a bubble-blowing machine.  Or set up some kind of "virtual fountain" with a projector.  Or heck, clear out the rocks and let me park my car there!

  17. DaveR says:

    Standard Vancouver(BC) joke:

    "If you can’t see the mountains, it means it is raining.  If you can see the mountains, it means it is about to rain."  Currently, can not see the mountains.  :)

  18. steveg says:

    Brokespout Fountain?

    Brokespout Countin’?

  19. Abhishek says:

    "The Fountain of Youth was here… Too bad you missed it!"

  20. Bulletmagnet says:

    "We don’t need a fountain of youth. We need a fountain of smart."

  21. In the spirit of useless information, I’ll add that it’s possible to get a leaking parking garage even without building a fountain – sometimes a courtyard is enough.

    Reference buildings 40 & 41.

  22. Tom says:

    Seattle actually has a fairly-well defined rainy season, roughly September to early June.  July and August are quite dry in Seattle.

    Summer interns go back and report that Seattle is just like Southern California, but cooler.

  23. Tanveer Badar says:

    (01/01,31/12) or [01/01,31/12] as the raining season?

  24. Ari says:

    Microsoft has a lot of clever people aboard.

    Do something clever with the fountain which does not require water. I’m quite sure that someone can come up with something really nice, even using an R&D project to play around with it.

    Make an interactive surface with it.

    Or something which displays graphics based on the number of people at work against the number of cars in the carpark. Or just a really nice zen rock garden.

    Whatever the solution, use in house talent. Giving the employees some input and feeling of this being their environment can only be good for morale. Figuring out something fun also, as well as maybe, just maybe something marketable comes out of the whole thing.

  25. Yaytay says:

    Seattle is not rainy – it’s a big myth put about either by Seattle residents wanting to put visitors off, or Texans who think a drop of water is a monsoon.

    The weather around Redmond is close to perfect, a summer that is hot and dry enough and a winter that snows.

    (two years in Seattle and I miss the weather now I’m back in dear onld Blighty).

  26. Friday says:

    > an undertaking which is, shall we say, “not cheap.”

    And yet they can afford to be wasteful with other people’s resources (electricity, HDD space)? (prefetch; .NET… nearly everything)

    [I’m pretty sure the Real Estate department isn’t responsible for those things. -Raymond]

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