The innovative series of downtown Portland fountain plazas by world-renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office.
Known individually as Keller Fountain, Pettygrove Park, Lovejoy Fountain, and the Source Fountain, the public plazas are located between SW Clay and Lincoln streets and First and Fourth Avenues and are connected by a system of pedestrian walkways. They are collectively called the “Portland Open Space Sequence.”
“Portland is well-known for the 1970s and 1980s transformation of its downtown with great public spaces like Waterfront Park and Pioneer Courthouse Square,” said Randy Gragg, president of the Halprin Landscape Conservancy, the initiators of the nomination. “But it was Halprin’s fountain plazas of the 1960s that first made downtown safe for fun.”
A winner of the Presidential Medal of the Arts and other honors, Halprin and members of his firm, Lawrence Halprin and Associates, designed the plazas from 1963-1970 as the heart of the city’s first urban renewal district, known as the South Auditorium District. Their unprecedented sculptural wedding of public space, water, and references to the natural landscape turned the plazas into instant people magnets, luring investment and laying the groundwork for Portland’s unique urban renewal policies for decades to come, according to the nomination’s proponents.
“Nearly forty-three years after the late architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable declared that it ‘may be one of the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance’, this defining achievement in Halprin's extraordinary career has been deservedly recognized by inclusion in the National Register,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, president and founder of The Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C
Halprin’s ideas about nature, movement and social interaction transformed the American urban landscape and influenced a generation of designers. Halprin designed important urban projects such as the Century 21 World’s Fair site in Seattle; Sproul Plaza at the University of California-Berkeley; Ghirardelli Square and Embarcadero Plaza in San Francisco; Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis; Heritage Park Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas; the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.; and the Walter and Elise Haas Promenade in Jerusalem.
As these plazas approach 50 years of age, the Halprin Landscape Conservancy, nearby property owners and the City of Portland have initiated a public-private stewardship program that has already resulted in tree-thinning, new lighting, and repairs to the iconic shelter designed by Halprin associate Charles Moore at Lovejoy Fountain. This spring, the conservancy will launch a plan for additional restoration and ongoing enhanced maintenance.
The National Register is maintained by the National Park Service under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. More information about the National Register and recent Oregon listings is online at www.oregonheritage.org (click on “National Register” at left of page).
National Register nomination link
Oral history of Halprin by The Cultural Landscape Foundation
Halprin Landscape Conservancy website link www.halprinlc.org