World’s Smallest Park Endures and Endears In Portland, Oregon

Throughout our history, Mayer/Reed has worked on parks big and small, but none as small yet so significant as the recent redesign of Mill Ends Park in Portland, Oregon.

For being only 452.16 square inches, Mill Ends Park certainly has a large reputation. Since 1971 it has held the title of World’s Smallest Park in the Guinness Book of World Records. The park’s origins are in the midcentury as a twinkle in the eye of Dick Fagan, an Oregon Journal columnist, whose imagination was sparked by an empty utility pole hole in the middle of SW Naito Parkway (called Front Avenue at the time) at Taylor Street. Looking down from his office, Fagan dreamed up a mythology for the park having to do with a leprechaun named Patrick O’Toole. The park was an object of controversy in 1954 as Fagan battled City Commissioner Bean over the name of the park, which ultimately was called “Mill Ends” after Fagan’s column in the Journal. On St. Patricks’ Day 1976, Mill Ends was officially dedicated as a city park, which makes it two years older than its 36-acre neighbor, Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Portlanders show this quirky little park a lot of love, frequently decorating it and adding small figurines. It has been the site of protests, weddings, snail races and ceremonial rose plantings. It has hosted every imaginable form of vegetation, which is carefully hand-watered by the staff at Portland Parks and Recreation. With the rise of the selfie era, so too has Mill Ends Park become extensively photographed and shared on social media.

Over the years, Mill Ends has been rebuilt several times as part of upgrades to Naito Parkway. In 2006, the park was briefly relocated to a flowerpot at the World Trade Center while Naito was repaved. More recently, Portland Bureau of Transportation’s bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Naito (known as Better Naito Forever) has again required a rebuild of Mill Ends Park.

Tasked with the redesign, Mayer/Reed, drafted multiple design iterations before selecting a quatrefoil shaped steel form cast in concrete. The new park is located a smidge northwest of its previous location but is not a hair larger than its record-setting size.

St. Helens Riverwalk Designs Revealed

In an online open house, the City of St. Helens, Oregon recently revealed the preferred concept for their long-awaited riverwalk. Former industrial lands are one step closer to becoming a community gathering place with public access and recreation along the Columbia River.

The Mayer/Reed-led design transforms approximately half mile of the river’s edge into a linear park adjacent to old town and future mixed-use development. Meandering pathways, seating areas and overlooks will invite activity and memorable riverfront experiences such as skipping stones, bird watching, kayaking, exploring natural and cultural history or attending an outdoor concert. Riparian and shallow water habitat improvements will be inviting for fish and wildlife as well.

Construction of the first phase is planned to begin this summer. To learn more about the project visit the St. Helens Riverwalk Project website.

Improvements at OSU Reser Stadium Kick Off with a Bang

On Friday morning January 7, the aging west grandstand of Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium in Corvallis came down in a dramatic implosion. From our home offices, Mayer/Reed and countless others watched the event safely via live-streamed video, as the 3.5 second planned implosion made way for $153 million improvements. The demolition of the 1967 grandstand marks a pivotal moment in the project, the final phase of stadium upgrades which began two decades ago.

Completing Reser Stadium” is a design-build project led by Hoffman Construction, Populous and SRG Partnership that will modernize the facility and provide a first-class fan experience with expanded amenities and open circulation. A welcome center for prospective students and their families and a student wellness and urgent care clinic complete the multi-use program.

Mayer/Reed’s site planning establishes a new arrival sequence, pedestrian promenade and a west side entry plaza to support year-round activity. The design will enhance the arrival experience as fans gather and enter the stadium. The firm’s signage design completes the identity and wayfinding program from previous updates through this final phase of improvements.

This project is the culmination of Mayer/Reed’s 20 years of collaboration on the stadium upgrades which began with the feasibility master plan followed by three prior phases of modernization. The firm’s additional work in the OSU athletic district includes the Sports Performance Center, a parking garage and the Beth Ray Center for Academic Support.

The completed Reser Stadium Westside is expected to open by fall 2023. Go Beavs!

Image 1: Still from OSU video, Image 2: Rendering of Reser West Side

Posted: Jan 11, 2022
Written by: Mayer/Reed
Posted January 11, 2022
Written by: Mayer/Reed
Categories: PROJECTS 

Site Design with Sight in Mind

We marvel at the world as seen through the eyes of a child, one that is rich with imagination, explorations of nature and attraction to color. As the landscape architects on a collaborative design team for the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic in Portland, Mayer/Reed considered environments for children whose sight may be limited. We asked, how could tactile qualities and perceptions of color help enrich their experience? How could we help to put children and families at ease as they approach the eye clinic for treatment? Within a small garden, could we offer a sense of calm and artistic expression through color, tactile surfaces and natural elements?  

We posed these questions to medical specialists and administrators as we studied site design opportunities for the new clinic located directly across from the renowned Casey Eye Institute on the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus. This world-class facility for the treatment of eye diseases is noted for its medical excellence as well as making kids feel safe and relaxed. Recently completed in spring of 2021, the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic welcomes both children and adult patients. We hope that the building’s entry and courtyard offer unique and delightful encounters for everyone.

During the design process, we learned that people with sight as well as those with sight impairments have great variations in their interpretations of color. We became intrigued with NBBJ Architects’ proposal to use colorful dichroic glass on the skyway connecting the clinic and institute. With this inspiration, we explored how to bring this rainbow of color down to a place in the landscape where kids could engage with it. 

Leading to the building entry, we incorporated thick sheets of smooth, poly-chrome slumped art glass (fabricated by Portland’s Bullseye Glass Company) into a crisp, board-formed concrete retaining wall. The two materials reveal a sharp visual and textural contrast. The vibrant colors rendered in glass punctuate the wall, remaining durable and effective, no matter the time of day, season or weather. 

A verdant, narrow courtyard between the new clinic and existing parking garage provides an intimate place to relax or enjoy a snack. This subdued, shady environment is favorable for clinic patients, especially if their eyes have been dilated during exams or treatment. 

The final phase of the clinic’s terraced sensory garden will be completed after construction of the adjacent OHSU hospital expansion. Until then, the colorful art glass wall and richly vegetated courtyard provide unexpected visual and tactile treats for everyone entering the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic. 

Posted: Oct 14, 2021
Written by: Mayer/Reed
Posted October 14, 2021
Written by: Mayer/Reed
Categories: PROJECTS