Making a Big Splash: Wet Design Inc.
LOS ANGELES - Handel composed music about it, Keats said his name was written in it, and Moses parted it.
Every day we wash with it, drink it, make electricity with it, swim in it, cook with it, irrigate our crops with it, and, sadly, pollute it.
But Mark Fuller choreographs it and makes it dance. If you haven't guessed already, it's water.
President and CEO of Wet Design Inc., Fuller has spent the almost three decades creating spectacles of dancing water that grace some of the world's most stunning architectural landmarks including the Embassy Valetta in Valetta, Malta; the Plaza de las Luces in San Juan, Puerto Rico; the Bellagio in Las Vegas; Singapore's Millenia Walk; the Barcelona Trade Center; the Binhai Plaza in Binhai, China; and more than 90 other sites in the US, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Fuller first became fascinated with water as an art form when he was working on his degree in civil engineering at the University of Utah in the mid-'70s - work that earned him an award from the American institute of Architects. Advanced work at Stanford University earned him a Master degree in Design and a six-year stint Walt Disney Imagineering, where he led the team that created the Leapfrog feature at the Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida.
In 1983, a Texas real estate developer, impressed with Fuller's work at Epcot, encouraged him to form his own company to handle the design of a new project in Dallas. Thirteen maxed-out credit cards later, Fuller's new company - WET (Water Entertainment Technologies) Inc. - had created the Fountain Place at the Allied Bank Plaza in downtown Dallas.
All the design work was done in Fuller's garage with his back yard, complete with a pair of garden hoses, serving as his lab.
The Fountain Place drew considerable attention, and like a tsunami, projects began to crash in - the company's first international project and its first "choreographed" water and fire musical fountain in West Edmonton, Canada; the fountains gracing the Los Angeles Music Center; it's first "shooter" fountain using patented compressed-air technology for the Seto Ohashi Exhibition in Sakaide, Japan; and the restoration of the Prometheus Fountain at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.
In the years that followed, the company underwent a name-change to its current moniker and established offices in Universal City, overlooking Southern California's San Fernando Valley.
A milestone for the company occurred in 1991 when Wet Design was selected to create a fountain at the Gas Company Tower Building in downtown Los Angeles - a project that gave the company its first opportunity to integrate a water feature into an interior space. The following year, WET completed the Watercourt at the California Plaza in Los Angeles, an open-air performance area where the water occupies the stage with or without live performers.
Two animated water sites in Singapore - at the Millenia Walk and Raffles City - were followed by The Fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, which opened in the fall of 1998.
"You can't go to the Yellow Pages for that effect," Mirage Resorts Chairman Stephan Wynn, who worked with WET to develop a computer-driven musical fountain show on the nine-acre lake at his Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, told USA Today. "This is a small band of creatively brilliant people."
The following year, the company completed the fountain for a 40-story hotel atrium at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, as well as the West End City Center fountain in Budapest, Hungary (patterned after Niagara Falls and the company's first project in Eastern Europe) the following year.
2002 saw projects completed in Missouri; Michigan; Utah; Los Angeles; Jeju, South Korea; Puerto Rico; Pennsylvania; Colorado; and Texas. Last year, WET made its mark in Texas; Japan; Nevada; New Jersey; Utah; Michigan; and, most recently, the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California.
With more than 100 full-time designers, project managers, engineers, and support, staff, WET also operates a wholly-owned research and development facility that designs and manufactures the high-tech valves, pumps, nozzles, lighting systems, and other equipment used in its projects worldwide.
The company has received several awards for its international activities including last year's International Marketing Hall of Fame Award from the World Trade Center of Los Angeles-Long Beach, and, in 2002, an Export Achievement Certificate from the US Department of Commerce. In 1997, WET was honored as an Outstanding Small Exporter by the State of California, and the preceding year, was the recipient of the Export Achievement Award by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
Quite an interesting path for a company founded by a man whose creative drive to "make water do thinks that amaze people" was set in motion when, as a little boy, he built his first fountain in the backyard garden of his suburban Salt Lake City home.
Wet Design Inc.
90 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, California 91608 USA
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