Tonight at 6PM at Jimmy Mak’s jazz club as part of the continuing Bright Lights discussion series, Portland Spaces editor Randy Gragg will be discussing the legacy of the South Auditorium District with Portland State University urban studies professor Carl Abbott. South Auditorium represents the Portland Development Commission's first project(s) after its founding 50 years ago, in 1958.
But this isn’t just a talk of half-century-old urban renewal, or the mild wonders of Keller Auditorium. Gragg writes:
"A boisterous new child fed by huge federal grants and loans, its first project was to clear 84 acres of downtown to create an entirely new kind of city in the South Auditorium District. Out with the old: dozens of businesses and hundreds of low-income apartments filled with Portland's most diverse ethnic community, but deemed a "slum." In with the new: offices, apartment towers, and three landmark fountain plazas designed by renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin.
Many American cities tried similar projects; few did it as successfully as Portland. But how do the losses and gains of the PDC's first undertaking look a half-century later?"
Tonight’s discussion is the first event of "The City Dance of Lawrence and Anna Halprin," a weeklong celebration of Lawrence Halprin's plazas in South Auditorium and the pivotal collaboration with his wife, renowned choreographer Anna Halprin, that influenced the designs.
Tonight at the Northwest Film Center brings two films on Anna Halprin, Jacqueline Caux’s documentary “Out of Boundaries” and Andy Abrams’ "Returning Home". Also, this Friday at noon the City Club of Portland will host Charles Birnbaum, director of The Cultural Landscapes Foundation in Washington, DC, who will speak on Lawrence Halprin's landscapes in Portland and elsewhere and the growing national movement to recognize and preserve historical landscapes.
This Friday from 4:30–6:30 p.m., starting at the Ira Keller Fountain at SW 3rd Avenue and Clay Street, there will be walking tours of Portland’s Halprin-designed plazas with Gragg and Anna Halprin biographer Janice Ross.
And this Sunday (Sept. 14) from 1-4PM comes “The City Dance of Lawrence and Anna Halprin”, again at the Keller Fountain. This will be a concert by Third Angle New Music Ensemble that combines “a celebration of Portland's most architecturally significant space, the radical music of the late 1960's minimalist movement and postmodern dance”.
Halprin grew up in New York and spent three of his teenage years in Palestine on a kibbutz. After studying plant sciences at Cornell as an undergrad, he moved on to learn design at Harvard under the legendary Walter Gropius, Marcel Brewer, and landscape architect Christopher Tunnard. He then apprenticed under renowned landscape architect Thomas Church, collaborating on the seminal Dewey Donnell Garden in Sonoma County and helping to develop the contemporary California Style garden concept, Halprin opened his own office in 1949.
Halprin's work is acclaimed for attention to human scale and the social impact of his designs. He was the creative force behind the interactive, 'playable' civic fountains most common in the 1970s, most notably in Portland’s fountain outside the Keller.
Legendary as he is (the American Society of Landscape Architects gave him its first ASLA Design Medal for lifetime achievement), Halprin's work has fallen victim to neglect in some cities, and others argue his designs are now outdated. There's a whole lot of concrete in our own big Halprin fountain, for example. We probably wouldn't build it that way today. But that's also what makes the work more valuable as history. Besides, you can trust Randy and Carl Abbott to articulate Halprin's genius tonight.