James FitzGerald's sculptural fountain symbolizes the great rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula. The commissioning architect Paul Thiry sited the fountain between the Romanesque Wilson Library and his international-style pavilion of Haggard Hall, which originally housed the general sciences program. Interpreting the process of nature at work, FitzGerald created a tall, vertical element weathered by wind and rain. Observant of geographical location, he also placed in the pool a horizontal element incorporating shapes reminiscent of Asian calligraphy and architectural details. As other artists had done, FitzGerald responded to the special nature and varied elements of forests and water in the Northwest. Characteristically, he singled out a tree dripping with water, one of the Pacific Northwest's most beautiful and defining sights.
Yet, underlying FitzGerald's observations and intuitive feeling for nature were the prevalent philosophical and intellectual concepts of the position of man and nature in the post-World War II era. In the late thirties, FitzGerald had studied philosophy at Yale where he no doubt had come across the writings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (d. 1900). Popular among American artists and writers in the thirties, Nietzsche conceived a new type of being who, through study of his ancestors and nature's powers, could undermine the strict dependence on science of modern civilization.