Archive for September, 2014
I recently rode my bicycle around Lake Tahoe. I’ve been wanting to do that ride for years and figured I should do it now, while my legs are fit from my Portland-to-SF ride. It was great. You don’t see the lake quite as much as I thought, a fair bit goes through what I would characterize as alpine suburbia, and the best views are from the same vista points that I’ve known for years, but it’s a beautiful ride and a beautiful lake, one of California’s best. I made some quick sketches similar to my Portland-SF sketches.
There’s a design competition for the Presidio. Five landscape architecture teams have presented concepts for what to do with the landscape after the tunnels replace Doyle Drive. You can check out the glossy renderings and give feedback on elements of the designs. SF Gate and Design Boom have write-ups on the competition. Worth checking out for anyone who visits the area with any regularity.
Update 12/10/14 — James Corner Field Operations has been selected as the designer for the project.
‘Finally these places were for the first time designed to be used to be participatory – NOT just to look at – they say COME IN, not stay off.’ Lawrence Halprin
It’s probably become apparent over the years on this blog that I am a big fan of Lawrence Halprin’s work. So along with the Portland Japanese Garden, Halprin’s famous Portland fountains were at the top of my list of things to see in Portland.
I loved the Keller Fountain, a tremendous space with the unmistakeable character of a Halprin landscape. My first impression was, ‘wow, how did they let this get built?’ It seems shockingly unsafe that the city lets people wade into the pools, wander along the top edge, and generally treat it like the world’s quirkiest public pool; at one point there were two dozen people scattered throughout the pools, including kids who had showed up with swimming suits and towels. I give Halprin credit: it’s hard to imagine this was ever approved by the city’s lawyers, but I’ve heard that it actually has a pretty good safety record. Like an adventure playground, it looks so obviously dangerous that people treat it with the proper respect and avoid hurting themselves. I saw one woman absolutely traumatized by the sight of her young daughter venturing close to the edge, but, after screaming at her kid to get back, she didn’t actually make the girl get out, just stay away from the danger zone. It’s too bad that things like this are so rare in our built landscapes.
One of Halprin’s design sketches (the actual forms were designed by an architect on his staff, Angela Danadjieva, working with clay) shows a granite cliff, though the forms remind me much more of a city skyline, like a bunch of high rises pushed up against each other. But even though the forms feel human-built and urban, the overall effect is impressively evocative of a natural waterfall, specifically Nevada Falls in Yosemite Valley. Pumping 13,000 gallons of water per minute, with the resulting roar of water and spray of mist, will obviously go a long way towards creating the feel of a waterfall, but the effect was also created by the way people were scattered throughout the space, sitting at the edge of the water and wading around in the pools above the cascade. I’ve heard that Nevada Falls was one of Halprin’s favorite places, and anyone who has ever been there will immediately recognize it when they see the Keller Fountain. It’s uncanny and really impressive.
In the post for the Japanese Garden, I said I sometimes felt as if I were an actor hitting my marks, feeling that all of my movements had been designed or choreographed; the Keller Fountain has a few spots that feel like that, such as the plinth in the photo above, clearly designed as a place for people to pose in photos (a lot like the row of statues designed for visitors at Halprin’s Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC to pose as the next statue in line, a nice participatory element in that memorial). But most of the fountain felt like a ‘choose your own adventure’ kind of space, and if you look on google images, it’s amazing the way everyone is doing something different in every photo. There’s an impressive variety of poses and images for such a small urban space.
I’ve heard this can look rather brutalist on an overcast winter day with the fountain turned off, but actually it looks pretty good in photos and the bare articulation of the masses really appeals to the stone guy in me.
I also walked Halprin’s Open Space Sequence to the nearby Lovejoy Fountain and to Pettygrove Park. Both of them are nice enough, but I wasn’t as impressed as with the Keller. A couple of images for the Lovejoy are below. (more…)
Before I set off on my bicycle, I hit up some of the landscape sites of Portland. The Japanese garden was at the top of my agenda, and it’s every bit as great as I had heard. Of all the Japanese gardens I’ve visited, Portland’s is the exemplar, filled with the carefully composed naturalism that Japanese gardens are famous for, plants carefully layered, views carefully framed, everything harmonious, suffused with careful deliberate subtlety. After a while, sitting on the benches, strolling the paths, pausing at the pausing spots, I did begin to feel somewhat like an actor hitting my marks, that everywhere I paused had been predetermined by the garden’s designers and that every view I looked at had been carefully composed to take my eye to a predetermined focal point. But the effect was genuine; I felt calm and harmonious. It’s the most expansive Japanese garden I’ve ever been to, the most subtle, and the most discretely meticulous.
The above Japanese Maple might be one of the most photographed specimens in the country. It’s perfectly pruned and sited on a slight rise so that you feel yourself invited to look up into its canopy.
All the paths were great. I like the way these contrasting stones are combined, with the larger, brighter granite pieces like stepping stones within the overall path. This path led into a tea garden with all of the classic elements, but it was closed to the public while I was there, so I wasn’t able to do the tea garden journey.
A wonderfully austere bench vignette.
Another nice pathway. A warmer piece of stone subtly marks the threshold.
Everything in the garden felt distinctly un-coincidental, like the way the herringbone pattern of the bamboo fencing echoed the herringbone of the bamboo leaves growing in front of it.
It was nice to get a bird’s eye view of the obligatory zen garden. There’s a much more interesting gravel and moss garden in another part of the garden but shadows made it not worth photographing.
It was great to see everything after years of knowing this garden only from photos. I’d love to see the garden at another time of year with better light, and I’m pretty sure I’ll manage another visit within the next couple of years. To see the garden in foggy, fall-color glory, check out this post from RhoneStreetGardens last October.
You are currently browsing the DryStoneGarden blog archives for September, 2014.