Portland Japanese Garden

In Portland, Oregon, there is a lovely 5.5-acre Japanese garden situated in a hilly area west of the city center, within Washington Park. It is considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. I visited this serene setting in May a couple of years ago, and would like to share some of my photos.

Portland Japanese Garden A

 

Portland Japanese Garden B

 

Portland Japanese Garden C

 

Portland Japanese Garden D

 

Portland Japanese Garden E

 

Portland Japanese Garden F

 

Portland Japanese Garden G

 

Portland Japanese Garden H

 

Portland Japanese Garden I

 

Portland Japanese Garden J

 

Portland Japanese Garden K

 

Portland Japanese Garden L

 

Photos by Alice Webb

Public Art in Outdoor Spaces

I love to see art pieces in public spaces – they often liven up a place and generate conversation. Below are a few interesting installations found in the U.S. and Europe, both permanent and temporary, in quite a range of styles and materials.


Streetscape sculptures in downtown Portland, Oregon


Stainless steel piece incorporating running water in the Rose Test Garden of Portland, Oregon


Bronze elephants in the North Park Blocks of Portland, Oregon


Salvador Dali elephant along the Thames River in London


Series of stone sculptures in a park in Caunes-Minervois, France


Core-ten steel lobster in Woolwich, Maine


Wind-activated piece in the deCordova Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts


Giant typewriter eraser in the Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Washington


Jellyfish in Elm Park, Worcester, Massachusetts


Hand-woven banners cover a footbridge in Elm Park, Worcester, Massachusetts


Barrel Monster is erected for a festival in Raleigh, North Carolina

Photos in Massachusetts and Oregon by Alice Webb
Photos in Washington, Maine, North Carolina, and European countries by Nancy Novell

Halprin Parks of Portland

Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) was a prominent American landscape architect who designed many modernist parks, plazas, fountains, and other projects, primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of his works feature poured-in-place concrete forms and running water that represent natural elements and processes. In Portland, Oregon, Halprin’s firm designed a series of three public spaces, which I visited in May of this year. The water in the fountains had been turned off at that time, but presumably would be back on during the summer months, since the fountains are meant to be accessible.

Sadly, some notable modernist landscapes have been poorly-maintained and at risk of demolition and re-design. Several of Halprin’s works have been threatened in this manner, but The Cultural Landscape Foundation has brought attention to these and other endangered landscapes through its Landslide education campaign. So far, Halprin’s Portland parks have not been considered at-risk.


Keller Fountain Park: The design of the Ira Keller Fountain (water turned off at time of photo) was inspired by the waterfalls of the Colombia River Gorge.


Keller Fountain Park: The fountain was designed to be accessible and therefore has 36” safety barriers along the edges.


Pettygrove Park includes this sculpture called “The Dreamer” by Manuel Izquierdo. In summer the pool surrounding the sculpture is filled with water.


Pettygrove Park features circular and curvilinear forms, and includes numerous grass mounds.


Lovejoy Fountain Park: Fountain and “stepping stones” (water turned off)


Lovejoy Fountain Park: The lower pool of the fountain is in foreground, with modernist-style buildings lining the east edge of the park.


Pleasant pedestrian walkways connect the Halprin parks in Portland.

Photos by Alice Webb

Tanner Springs Park – A Lesson in History and Sustainability



Tanner Springs Park, in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon, is a unique example of ecological sustainability within an urban area. It was built on a former industrial site, and a natural habitat was created to represent the historic ecosystem that existed in this part of the Willamette River valley prior to development of the city.

The site slopes down from west to east, and the western end is planted with trees to portray an Oak savannah prairie. A native grassland was planted downhill from the savannah, sloping down into a wetland, and ultimately to a pond at the east end of the park.

All rain water that falls within the park boundaries is cleansed and recycled on site. Water seeps into the soil, migrates to a subgrade cistern, and is then treated by an ultraviolet light system, also located under ground. The clean water then emerges as a “spring” in the grassland, and flows through a meandering runnel into the pond.

Some materials installed in the park also represent the industrial past of the city. Belgian blocks that pave some of the walkways were originally used as ballast on ships that navigated the Columbia River, and later used as surfacing for Portland’s streets. Also, an art installation at the east end of the park consists of a wavering wall of vertical rail tracks, interspersed with blue stained glass panels displaying images of insects – a merging of man-made and natural references. The rail tracks are relics of 19th century Portland.


A “spring” emerges from the ground in the prairie zone.


Water flows from the “spring” through a winding runnel.


Cobbled walkways transition to stone dust surfacing in the grassland zone.


A pond is situated at the east end of the park.


View to the west: pond in foreground, followed by wetland, native grassland, and Oak savannah prairie zones


Shelter, boardwalk, & rail track wall


Back (street) side of rail track wall

Photos by Alice Webb

RiverEast Center: A Sustainable Site


 
An example of a successful public-private partnership involving sustainable stormwater management is RiverEast Center in Portland, Oregon. The site includes numerous vegetated infiltration swales that filter and cleanse runoff from the parking lot, walkways, building roof, and adjacent public street. The swales were constructed at a gentle gradient to allow the water to readily soak into the soil, rather than be rapidly carried off to storm drains. Plantings, mulch, and stones cover all the unpaved surfaces; no high-maintenance turfgrass can be found on the property. The site also includes several recycled concrete slabs, set on edge, that serve as sculptural and functional elements. The office building is a renovated warehouse (with a new façade) that has achieved LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
 

A vegetated infiltration swale is situated between a pedestrian walkway and the parking area. This walkway connects to a bicycle/pedestrian path along the Willamette River.
 

This infiltration swale is located between parking bays. A raised storm drain at the end of each swale takes in excess stormwater during heavy rain events.
 

Roof water from a building scupper is slowed by a gravel bed (edged with recycled concrete slabs) and is then directed through a slot in the taller slab to a vegetated infiltration bed on the left side of this photo.
 

During heavy rain storms, roof runoff that can’t entirely soak through the plant bed next to the building is conveyed through this walkway channel into an infiltration swale.
 

Stormwater from the adjoining public street is directed through several walkway channels into the adjacent infiltration swale on the RiverEast Center property.
 
Photos by Alice Webb

Green Streets of Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon, is known as one of the greenest cities in the U.S., receiving high marks for public transportation, bicycle/carpool commuting, renewable energy usage, recycling, and number of LEED-certified buildings. It also has quite a few innovative environmentally-sustainable sites, including several “green streets”. These streetscapes incorporate special planters that decelerate runoff and filter pollutants from the water before it reaches the storm pipe system.

During a recent visit to Portland, I had the opportunity to see a couple of these green street projects in the downtown area: one on Southwest 12th Avenue within Portland State University, and another on Southwest Park Avenue across from Director Park. There are several other green streets scattered around the city, and many of these have their own unique design.

The 12th Avenue site was the first of its kind, built in 2005. In addition to its stormwater management function, it has enhanced the visual quality of the existing streetscape. In this case, stormwater flows into the first of four planters, and settles into the soil. During heavy storms, if the water level in this planter reaches more than 6 inches, the excess amount will flow back out into the gutter and then flow into the next planter for infiltration, repeating the process. Water exceeding 6 inches height in the last (lowest) planter will flow out to the street and enter the storm drain system. The number of planters functioning in this manner depends on the intensity and duration of each rain event. The planters are filled with a native species called Grooved Rush (Juncus patens), and each also includes a Black Gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica). Both of these species tolerate saturated soil conditions. In addition, a 3’-wide strip of pavers is located along the street side, providing space for access to parked cars. Pedestrian walkways are also situated between the planters, bounded by small shrubs.


The Southwest 12th Avenue planters include a strip of pavers for parked vehicle access.


Excess runoff from the lowest planter enters the storm drain system.


The planters and vegetation fit nicely into the urban streetscape.


Each street-side planter inlet includes a small hump in the asphalt to direct water into the planter.

The planters on Park Avenue are designed in a different manner. The largest planter (pictured below) is divided into three sections. Water enters the planters from drain inlets along the street side, and from gaps in the curbing along the sidewalk. When water in the highest planter section exceeds the height of the divider during large rain events, that runoff will flow over the divider into the next section. Most of the water will filter into the soil in the planters, but during the heaviest storms it may reach the third (lowest) planter section. If the water level in this section reaches the height of the elevated drain inlet located within it, this excess water will enter the inlet and flow into the storm pipe system.


Southwest Park Avenue planter with drain inlets connecting to each divided section


Raised drain inlet within the lowest planter section


Gaps in curbing along the sidewalk receive runoff.


One of several individual tree planters along Southwest Park Avenue only receives runoff from the walkway side. A small raised drain in the planter takes in excess water during heavy storms.

Photos by Alice Webb