Posts Tagged ‘halprin’
‘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…)
Next Sunday the 22nd, Anita will be leading a bicycle tour of a few landscape architecture projects in San Francisco. The tour goes to two hugely influential and historic projects, Levi’s Plaza pictured above, and Crissy Field, along with several other compelling spaces. You may already know these places, but this is your opportunity to see them with a beautiful and knowledgeable guide.
What: Casual bike tour from the Embarcadero winding through downtown to Crissy Field
When: 9AM to noon, April 22, 2012
Where: Meet under the clock outside the Embarcadero Ferry Building
Cost: FREE! but must RSVP to contact below
Contact: Anita Bueno, email@example.com, 510-282-4918
Rain cancels, call to confirm
Along with the north coast, I went to Yosemite several times in the last couple months. Absolutely amazing place, as the millions of people who visit all know. I used to be bothered by the crowds, but I’ve learned to navigate the park and appreciate it without feeling bothered by them. Bringing my bicycle with me has helped immeasurably. The Valley’s a beautiful, flat place to ride around in, and a bicycle is the key to avoiding the daily traffic jams. (The park service really needs to figure out a way to get people parking outside the valley and just using bikes and shuttle buses inside. I’m skeptical it will ever happen, but I can dream, right?) Climbing has also helped me love the valley. Obviously because the climbing is so incredible, but also because I’ve ended up spending longer periods of time sitting and staring. And not just on the climbs. Most days I would meet up with my climbing partner at the bicycle parking at Lower Yosemite Falls, and while I waited for him, I started to really appreciate the effect that the view of the the falls has for people.
It’s the tallest falls in North America, 2,425 feet, and probably the most viewed and photographed. Lawrence Halprin redesigned the approach trail and picnic area a few years ago, and there is a lot of stonework done by the same company that did all the stonework at Stern Grove. I don’t really remember what the approach was like before the redesign and I couldn’t find any before photos of the project online, but I remember a parking lot and a lot of crumbling asphalt. I’m pretty sure the almost French-style view of the falls was already cleared, but possibly with trees starting to grow back in and obscure it again. The redesign took out the parking area, made the trail into a loop, and rehabbed a lot of degraded habitat areas. The park service has a summary of the project.
There’s a photo of the approach here. I can’t count how many times I heard people say, ‘Wow.’ Below is a photo from the other side of the valley.
‘I wanted it to have the feeling of being in one of the great Greek amphitheaters,’ Lawrence Halprin
Last month I went to Stern Grove and took some photos. I’d been there during concerts, but I wanted to check it out without all the crowds. It didn’t disappoint. It’s a great space, with awesome stonework, and worth visiting even when there isn’t a concert happening. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone there, but an impressive number of people passed through the space, even though it was a rainy Sunday morning. I’d always thought of it as a theatre, but it actually works quite nicely as a park, too.
The Grove has been a park and concert space since the 1930’s, but the stonework is all from about 5 years ago when Lawrence Halprin led a big renovation. Before the renovation it was just a natural amphitheater, and everyone would slowly slide downhill while they listened to music. Halprin terraced the slope and turned it into a proper Greek theater. My impression of him was that he tended to just make things up, but the design at the Grove is actually quite true to the style of the Greeks, with appropriate stonework and other detailing. Even the plan, which is rather free-form, is in keeping with the old Greeks’ appreciation for natural topography. One theater in particular, Thorikos, has a plan that reminds me of Stern Grove. (more…)