Urban and Modern Waterfalls – Ira’s Fountain, Portland, Oregon

(click any image to enlarge)

As a devoted fan of water in gardens and cities, I find very few things to match its otherwise totally absorbing effect on the mind and soul, set as they are in such urban concentrations. There are few more jarring effects on one while patrolling city streets to match running across a small park devoted solely to some water feature – as if someone insisted on reminding us of natural laws.

Here is a meek little look at the top of one such construction from downtown Portland, Oregon. (It would figure that Lawrence Halprin would have been integral in its making – I have seen few landscape architects since the days of Frederick Olmstead (link in this blog) who have done more electrifying work in changing the ambiance of busy downtown areas into something more compelling and interesting for plain old people just like us.) Anyway, here are my best friends, Steve and Jody Bare, enjoying the sounds and sensations from the top of this fascinating place.

I love the insertion of those Japanese Black Pines in their solo positions smack in the midst of all this water activity. They add yet more Nature, but with their own severe and gorgeous style. Here is another perspective of this small city park, set in the middle of town. The utter placidity mixes with the severity of concrete to provide a sort of soulful splendor no one would ever have imagined could be constructed from such simple and seemingly incongruous products like cement and water. For my money, this is true art.

It’s difficult to get a true perspective on the sheer scope and size of this great water feature. One camera won’t do it justice. But here is an interesting perspective on the sheer power of it all as an extremely handsome – if aging – hillbilly checks it out and I snap his picture from above:

From the top, up some stairs and over on the top side, the noise lessens some and a different and still-interesting perspective emrges as we get to know it better. It literally cries to be explored. So – hey – we sure did!



At the top:  (The top courtyard is continually bisected by feeder streams originating back up the way and fed in the geometric planes and rectangluar streams onto the falls themselves. Severe cuts into the courtyard, studded with these gorgeous individual Pines, make it simply breath-taking to be around. Now and then you get to a place you think is perfect. This is one of those.)

This is your people-friendly park. Note those kids and even my grown-up friends taking advantage of the water like mana from Heaven on this hot Summer morning.

Here’s a few random shots from this falls:

That’s about it.

Here’s a bonus I picked up from Youtube and the Portland people:

From the Portland City Parks Desk:
“Even before remodeling of the Civic Auditorium began in the early 1960s, plans to create an open space across the street were being proposed. The proposal submitted by Lawrence Halprin, the well-known San Franciscan architect who had designed the Lovejoy Fountain a few years earlier, was unanimously approved in 1968. Designed by Angela Danadjieva, the Forecourt Fountain was completed in 1970. 13,000 gallons of water per minute cascade through its terraces and platforms, suggesting the Northwest’s abundant waterfalls. The concrete fountain became an instant city landmark and an internationally acclaimed open space.

In 1978, the fountain was renamed after Ira C. Keller (1899-1978), civic leader and first chairman of the Portland Development Commission (1958-72). Keller pushed through the renewal plan for the South Auditorium area of downtown which included the construction of the Forecourt Fountain. It has been said that “it was Keller’s enormous energy that made urban renewal work in Portland.”

Yes, it IS that loud down below. 😉

2 thoughts on “Urban and Modern Waterfalls – Ira’s Fountain, Portland, Oregon

  1. Beautiful work there. Louisville has done some things in the past 10 years to liven up downtown and it was long over due. I’d like to see more of the above. It’s very park like and pleasant looking. Comfort as well as beauty (and of course, safety) will help in getting folks to go back downtown for cities all over the country.

  2. Hey, thanks, Freddy. Public spaces are there for reasons I personally think a lot of – they are places to breath a little deeper in crowded towns and cities and they offer some natural things to enjoy. This one is truly remarkable, for sure.

    It’s good to see you blogging. You have lots to say and I
    promise you’ll see me dropping by.

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