This Saturday brings a celebration for the publication of the book Where The Revolution Began: Lawrence and Anna Halprin and the Reinvention of Public Space, published by Spacemaker Press.
In the Ziba World Headquarters atrium (1044 NW Ninth Ave.) at 2PM, there will be a host of people and artists articulating the Halprin legacy as seen in this book: Portland Commissioner Nick Fish will emcee, followed by a performance from violinist Ron Blessinger of Third Angle Ensemble, with dancers Linda K. Johnson, Tere Mathern, Cydney Wilkes, and Linda Austin. There will also be a screening of The City Dance of Lawrence and Anna Halprin, a documentary about the September 2008 performance in Halprin’s Portland plazas. Admission is free.
Between 1963 and 1970, Lawrence Halprin and Associates realized the Portland Open Space Sequence—a quartet of public plazas in Portland, Oregon, that redefined the city and set a bold new precedent for urban landscape architecture. Composed of the Lovejoy Fountain, Pettygrove Park, and Forecourt Fountain (latter renamed Ira Keller Fountain), plus the lesser known Source Fountain, the plazas were a dynamic collage of striking concrete forms, gushing water, and alpine flora that, in their seamless mix of nature and theater, created a playful metaphorical watershed coursing through the central city.
Where the Revolution Began is the story of how these plazas came to be. Born of the creative experimentation and collaboration between Halprin and his wife, pioneering choreographer/dancer Anna Halprin, the Portland Open Space Sequence came to life in the unlikely setting of the city’s first scrape-and-rebuild urban renewal project. But Halprin defied the conventions of both American urban renewal and midcentury modernism, designing the kind of inviting, exuberant public space that hadn’t been seen since Renaissance Rome’s Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navonna.
For Halprin, who died in October at age 93, the plazas became the first step in a career-long exploration of sequential works of landscape design, from the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem to the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. For Portland, Halprin’s work marked the beginning of a tradition of remaking the city around interactive public spaces such as the famed Pioneer Courthouse Square. And for landscape architecture, the plazas laid the earliest foundations for the ecologically and socially responsive urbanism on the rise today.
Replete with historic photographs and Halprin’s own notebook drawings (two of which are shown in this post - of the Keller and Lovejoy Fountains), Where the Revolution Began is the historically complete document of how this pivotal moment in urban landscape history came to be, from concept to fruition.
The book includes essays by three experts on the Halprins: John Beardsley, author of Earthworks and Beyond: Contemporary Art in the Landscape and Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists; Janice Ross, director of the Dance Division at Stanford University and author of Anna Halprin: Experience as Dance ; and Randy Gragg, editor in chief of Portland Spaces and Portland Monthly magazines.
Photographs in Where the Revolution Began are by Susan Seubert, who has photographed for publications like National Geographic Traveler and the New York Times.
In Beardsley's essay, he writes:
"The 'transitional figure' in history is a well worn cliche, but in Lawrence Halprin's case, the term emphatically and revealingly applies. Halprin is widely recognized as one of the preeminent designers of the postwar era, when landscape architecture finally reckoned with the formal, social, and technological implications of modernism."
"Halprin used a language of streamlines forms, asymmetrical geometries, and spatial ambiguity characteristic of much high modernist art. He likewise shared the faith they displayed in the socially transformative power of functionalist design...But Halprin [also] articulated some of the earliest and most forceful environmentalist challenges to modernism."
"Halprin...recognized ecology as a social as well as a biological construct; ecological health, in his mind, encompassed humans in addition to the rest of the biotic community. Halprin's engagement with urban renewal, a feature of his work both in Portland and Seattle, was at once the legacy of modernist aspirations for social improvement and a critique of the way modernism was rending the physical fabric of American cities."
I'm just hoping that I'm feeling happy enough from a Ducks win in the Civil War to go to the book event on Saturday, and not too depressed by a Beaver win to engage in human contact. Either way, though, I heartily recommend purchasing a copy of the book.