Kendall fountain flows again after complicated repairs

The Joe Davis sculpture and fountain, “Galaxy: Earth Sphere,” is working again July 10 after many dry months. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The world is back in working order.

That is, the 1989 sculpture and fountain called “Galaxy: Earth Sphere” installed where Main Street and Broadway meet in Kendall Square, is operating again as of the start of July, with some 20 streams of water flowing toward it after some 18 dry months.

It was the elements that did it in. A powerful rainstorm struck first, then fire at 1 Broadway, taking out power in the area. As the gathered water came flooding into the fountain’s ground-level control room, the sump pumps failed, according to Joseph Tulimieri, executive director of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, and Michael O’Hearn, property manager for the developer Boston Properties.

“The area was flooded and a lot of the mechanicals were destroyed,” Tulimieri said Friday, with much emphasis on “a lot.” “There was damage done to the underground controls.”

Repairing the $1.4 million fountain, the work of artist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology biology professor Joe Davis, was more difficult than anyone expected.

“It was a complicated fix,” said Tulimieri, who leads urban redevelopment projects out of offices in Boston Properties’ huge Cambridge Center complex.

But finding parts wasn’t the most time-consuming part of repairing the fountain. Ironing out insurance issues took most of the time, O’Hearn said Friday. It is Boston Properties that maintains the fountain and wound up paying for the repairs.

O’Hearn wouldn’t say what it cost the company; Tulimieri said the expense was “substantial.”

The work isn’t over. Residents said that when they questioned why water was flowing but the sculpture’s steam wasn’t on, Tulimieri told them in an e-mail that the line feeding the fountain’s steam was broken somewhere around Third Street and Broadway and Veolia Energy “has been unwilling to undertake the repairs since the line only serves the fountain.”

The return of the water, though, didn’t go unappreciated, especially by photographers. Blogger Clueless in Boston snapped “The World at Kendall Square” Saturday; Cambridge resident Dan Abdinoor, a software engineer and disc jockey, was even more alert. He got a photo July 3 and cheered via Twitter, “Holy crap, the Kendall Square fountain is fixed!”

By his recollection, though, it had been broken for more than three years. Clueless in Boston also had a photo of the fountain, dry, three years ago.

City councillor Ken Reeves had mentioned the dry fountain — and his hopes for its repair — more than once in recent meetings, but didn’t return a message this week for comment.

This post was updated Aug. 14 with information about the sculpture’s steam line.

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