Years of planning, rounds of design, site explorations and valuable community conversations and public agency support have all shaped our vision for the Blue Heron site and The Willamette Falls Riverwalk in Oregon City. Plans and images of this along-awaited, legacy project were revealed this week at a media event on this intriguing 22-acre post-industrial riverfront site.
Thank you to everyone who joined members of the Design Collective – Snøhetta, Mayer/Reed and DIALOG – for the first public viewing of the concept on Saturday, June 3rd, at the Willamette Falls Riverwalk Design Celebration. It was our pleasure to discuss the design of this complex site, assemble a time capsule and raise a glass to toast the success of the project!
The team is beginning work on detailed design and construction drawings for the first phase of the riverwalk, with ground breaking scheduled for next summer. Check out willamettefallslegacy.org for the latest project news and progress.
Planning a new park at SE 150th and Division posed a big challenge: How do we meaningfully engage a culturally diverse community in a park planning process? Among the people who call Centennial neighborhood home, some have lived through annexation by the City of Portland, some have moved east from the central city, some are first generation immigrants, some are second generation, and some are recently resettled refugees. English, Spanish, Russian, Nepali and Somali are all spoken here. Knowing that a 7.3-acre site cannot address every need in this park-deficient neighborhood, how do we as designers prioritize activities and create a shared park vision?In collaboration with Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), Mayer/Reed developed a creative and inclusive approach to meaningfully engage the community. Graphics that communicate ideas without language are an essential part of our outreach. Community liaisons help neighbors from different cultural backgrounds feel comfortable with the public process. And food and child care boost attendance at public meetings.
Last July, PP&R held a “Party in the Park,” where nearly 100 neighbors cooked and ate together, played games and participated in planning exercises on the future park site. We engaged attendees with colorful image boards depicting a variety of park activities and a site model where people flagged possible locations for activities. Community gardens, group gathering spaces and sports emerged as common themes.A followup community event in October invited participants to arrange and prioritize scaled templates of amenities such as sports fields, playgrounds and gardens on a site model. A separate art activity encouraged young and old to depict their ideal park experiences, which we then composed into a colorful “tapestry” to represent the shared vision.Inspired by this exchange of ideas with the community, Mayer/Reed created two design options for the park which we presented at a community meeting in April. Consensus was reached for some elements, while others (like a dog park) continued to generate fruitful discussion. Building on this critical input, we’re now finalizing a single park concept. This process has demonstrated that comprehensive outreach and participatory design activities (despite language barriers) can bring many different people together to shape a space that is destined to become a social hub of activity for the neighborhood.
Over the past 58 years the iconic Paul Bunyan statue – the original Portland hipster – located in the historic Kenton Neighborhood, has weathered all manner of changes. Now, a new neighborhood identity installation creates his backdrop. Mayer/Reed’s design was inspired by the color and pattern of tree bark, interpreted using plasma-cut weathering steel, reminiscent of a giant felled sequoia. The modern geometry and steel fabrication references the neighborhood’s industrial underpinnings, while establishing an identity for Kenton that is firmly in the “now.”The mythical lumberjack, built for the Oregon Centennial in 1959 was meant to last only a few months, yet the neighborhood landmark still stands tall (31’ to be exact!). Although community groups have spiffed him up over the years, Paul has seen better days. PaintPaulPDX is raising funds for repairs and fresh paint. A restored Paul Bunyan may soon be the finishing piece in an ongoing effort to revitalize this North Portland district. It’s heartening to witness our city reinvesting in existing landmarks and special places, keeping them relevant for future generations.
A dozen years after completion, the Rain Garden at the Oregon Convention Center continues to draw national and international interest for its pioneering approach to stormwater management. As the lead designer, I recently led a tour of the site for a group of landscape architects from Beijing, China where designing visible, green infrastructure is in its infancy.
The independent practitioners and academics from the School of Architecture and Design of Beijing Jiaotong University were studying successful examples of integrated stormwater landscapes in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
They were particularly impressed with the long term success and lessons learned from The Rain Garden, a series of vegetated basins that collects and treats stormwater from over 5.5 acres of roof area from the OCC expansion. It was essentially a large scale experiment at the time of its design and installation.As we gathered among the chiseled basalt boulders in the spillways, the group took copious notes and photos and challenged me with questions: “How did you determine the size and depth of the basins? Where does the water drain to? What type of stone was used and where did it come from? Would you do it the same way if you were designing it now?”
I found myself drawn into their excitement for a project that I have come to take for granted among many prolific, sustainable stormwater projects in the Pacific Northwest. Nowadays, as rain gardens have become a character-defining feature of Portland, it’s heartening to recall that this bold, demonstration project did, in fact, help inspire a movement that is now acknowledged and emulated worldwide.The tour was organized by Hong Wu, Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture at Pennsylvania State University and Xiaojie Tian, Principal of LA Road Study Exchange Program and sponsored by the Landscape Architecture Frontiers Magazine of China.