Local landscape architecture firm Lango Hansen, who also designed the Hotel Modera courtyard (with Holst Architecture) that I wrote about recently on this blog and in The Oregonian, has unveiled three design options in a Metro-sponsored effort to re-introduce part of Lone Fir Cemetery in Southeast Portland. The agency is seeking public comment on which design is best.
Some background: Several years ago, when the Multnomah Building was planned to be demolished, there was concern that this corner of the cemetery would be developed as a mixed use building, which many locals strongly opposed because it was believed that the land belonged to the cemetery and there were still remains on the site. Multnomah County and Metro conducted an archaeological investigation, and it proved true. Since then, the property has been put on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the rest of the cemetery, and Metro is leading the effort to create a new design for the site that will be a memorial for the Chinese workers believed to be buried there. There will also be a contemplative garden with interpretive elements reflecting the cemetery's history and cultural diversity.
Another historical aspect of the property is that there were several mental patients buried on the site. A Dr. Hawthorne, for whom Hawthorne Boulevard is named, saw to their burial when these patients' families washed their hands of responsibility (mental illness was often hidden away by polite society in these days).
The three Lango Hansen design options are largely about how much of a memorial exists. The firm has provided narrative for each of the three options, listed as follows:
"Option 1 illustrates a long rectangular lawn with a memorial similar to the historic cemetery trellis, located at the east end of the project area. In front of the trellis a small bubbling fountain is proposed on a stone paving pad. The trellis and lawn are separated from the Morrison Street sidewalk by a band low shrubs and perennials to mitigate traffic noise. On the north side of the lawn a serpentine decomposed granite path meanders through a band of low shrubs and perennials providing pedestrian connections between the project site and the rest of the cemetery. A contemplative stone seating circle is located along this path, surrounded by cherry trees, in the location of where the remains were found."
"At the pedestrian entry off of SE 20th and Morrison, a grouping of four raised planters with low stone walls, similar to the walls found in the cemetery, provide a place for seating and colorful perennial plantings. A gateway feature, similar in design to the trellis, is flanked by these planters. This gateway could have side panels containing interpretive information about the cemetery for the public."
"In Option 2 the trellis on the east side of the project area is expanded in length, and the memorial more explicitly acknowledges the Chinese workers as well as Dr. Hawthorne’s patients. The Chinese memorial contains elements similar to a traditional Chinese cemetery altar, such as stone placement with the Chinese inscription “You are with us” and a funerary burner for offerings. The funerary burner could be a metaphoric work of art rather than an actual burner. These elements are placed in front of the trellis structure, with a large pine planted behind them. A larger paving pad surrounding the Chinese memorial acknowledges by name Dr. Hawthorne’s patients that were buried in the area. At the north end of the trellis a small cemetery maintenance building is proposed, which could be visually mitigated with plantings."
"In this scheme the lawn is contained by an elliptical path and is raised at the west end by a low basalt wall that would seep water. This water feature is a focal point in a pedestrian plaza at the intersection of 20th and Morrison. The plaza also contains a grove of cherry trees with benches and interpretive kiosks. Low growing shrubs create a separation of the lawn area from the sidewalk at SE Morrison Street."
"Historically, the Chinese cemetery contained a path down the center, running east/west. Option 3’s scheme recalls that path, but puts a slight curve in it, connecting the pedestrian entry at SE 20th and Morrison to two separate memorials at the east end of the project area. The path could illustrate a time line of the cemetery or give voice to the rich history of the cemetery, by the use of inscribed stones set in the lawn, crossing the path at intervals, and becoming the interpretive element. The memorial to the Chinese workers is located in the northeast corner of the property and contains a” stone mountain”, similar to those in classical Chinese gardens, potentially using stone from the Guangdong province where the Chinese workers were from. The paving around this memorial could be a stone mosaic, and the entire memorial is proposed to be surrounded by plants of Chinese origin. To the south of this memorial a stone paving circle, nestled within northwest native plantings is proposed with interpretive elements acknowledging Dr. Hawthorne’s patients."
"At the pedestrian entry at SE 20th and Morrison an entry sculpture is proposed as well as a low mound containing a grove of cherry trees which leads into the site. The mound is backed by low basalt rubble walls similar to those inside the cemetery. Two basalt columns with an interpretive panel form a gateway to the cemetery at what was the west edge of the Chinese cemetery."
This project has come about through a grass roots effort over the past 5 years by Friends of Lone Fir, Buckman Community Association, the Consolidated Chinese Benevolent Society, neighbors and interested local citizens.
On Metro's website, there is additional information about the options as well as the opportunity for public input. Personally, I prefer the option that provides separate Chinese and Dr. Hawthorne memorials, but I also like the pathway going through the middle of the space. You don't want this solemn cemetery becoming an athletic field, after all. Meanwhile, congrats to Lango Hansen on a fine set of options.