Visionary thinking during revolutionary times.
Fifty years ago, the City of Portland launched its first urban renewal area, a bold project designed to transform and reinvigorate 55 blocks in the south part of downtown. As part of this project, area leaders were looking for ways to bring nature back to the city. Nothing fussy or formal, nothing manicured or symmetrical. Those were yesterday’s look and the landscape of the 1960s was different. That’s when the Portland Development Commission brought in renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin.
Form meets function — and style
Halprin had a vision — a four block series of inter-connected walkways, fountains and plazas designed to bring open space and natural beauty to the south end of downtown. Known as the Portland Open Space Sequence, the Source Fountain, Lovejoy Fountain, Pettygrove Park and Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain flow together to create a true urban oasis where residents, workers and visitors alike can walk, eat lunch, meet up or simply relax and reflect.
Today, these mid-century parks stand as the most internationally celebrated and influential works of landscape architecture Portland has ever produced. In 2013, the Sequence joined the National Register of Historic Places.
Volunteer stewards preserve the vision
The Halprin Landscape Conservancy is a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to preserve, maintain and activate the Portland Open Space Sequence. As stewards, we partner with neighbors, businesses, community organizations and the City of Portland’s Bureau of Parks & Recreation to ensure the Sequence is clean, safe and active — for today and for future generations.
Formed in 2001, we began our work by joining with local property owners to develop the first tree-trimming program for the Keller Fountain and Pettygrove Plaza. We joined forces with the Portland Bureau of Transportation to improve lighting of the plazas and surrounding paths, and worked in tandem with Portland Parks and Recreation to develop a restoration plan for Pettygrove Park. A grant from the City of Portland helped launch the project.
What’s happening today?
The Portland Open Space Sequence is among the city’s most nationally and internationally influential urban places — and one of Portland’s most locally beloved treasures. It is also in dire need of restoration. Sadly, these visionary spaces are in disrepair. Time, heavy usage and budget cuts have not been kind. Fountains are leaking. Lighting is out. Planters are cracked and broken.
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Portland Open Space Sequence. This momentous occasion is the perfect opportunity to unite the diverse, vibrant community in downtown Portland’s south end. In this rapidly changing neighborhood, the Sequence will be an important place where residents, businesses, visitors and students can gather to engage, relax and recreate.
It’s time to come together to restore and preserve these visionary public spaces to their former glory. As Lawrence Halprin so beautifully put it on the opening day of the Forecourt Fountain, “As you play in this garden, please try to remember, we’re all in this together.”