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If it wasn't a successful urban space, it wouldn't get used. And it gets used, despite how much it offends the aesthetics of the local professionals who know what's better for us.

Brian Libby

Andy, your first point is well taken, but I don't think quality design and popular design are always the exact same things. As for your second point, I don't think that's fair to Brad Cloepfil or other architects with ideas and opinions about design. This whole site and community is about debating and discussing architecture and design. It's not being holier than thou for Brad to express an opinion (especially while being interviewed in a public forum), even if people disagree with it.


while Jamison Square has the big fountain area that attracts way too many people on just about any sunny day. . .there is also the gravelly area on the east side of the square that may seem odd to most, if there is no activity at the time was designed to accommodate the French game of petanque'.

The area is home of a petanque' club called le Boule Rose. When the club is in session. You may see up to 10 people playing at a given time. And this really activates this area.

The down side is that the children bring buckets with them to play in the fountain, and like to dump it outside of the fountain creating major erosion in the gravelly petanque' area that goes all the way down to the rubber membrane beneath the gravel.

That said, I don't think it's as bad a park as Brad Cloephil says.


brian, good job on revisiting the site and making a special post about this question, as well as focusing attention on landscape projects like you promised.

i'm glad that you made the obvious comparison with tanner springs which is a more "elegant" park, as it does provide a distinct alternative mere steps away. as for brad's comment about jamison not being elegant enough, i have to say that with the abundance of green and open spaces in town, what's wrong with being a little playful occasionally? as someone who often takes herself way too seriously, i welcome opportunities to have fun thrown in my face, even if it makes me uncomfortable at first. i have sat in the park by myself and with friends eating take-out and watching the goings-on with a definite appreciation of city life. and i don't even like children! i wouldn't say that this is the city's new living room, but perhaps it is the pearl's. i don't live in the neighborhood so i don't often go to jamison, but i'm glad it is there. and i was certainly proud when it appeared on the cover of planning magazine last year and was highlighted as one of the reasons that denser areas of portland are becoming more family friendly. in a modern city we need to have alternatives, even if some of them are not as "elegant" as others.


I go to Jamison to avoid Brad. (joke)

I can understand Brad's disdain for this amusement park. It's fairly gross. But it is what it is.

And it doesn't sound like Brad thinks it a failure. He knows it's not for him...which it isn't. I'm not convinced his is an holy than thou position.


I cannot argue with the wonder and excitement of that place. As a mother of a very happy patron, the happiness it brings my child trumps the opinions of design professionals. Similarly, my dislike of the totems was reversed because he adores them and now shows interest in other sculpture. (Gateway art?) Was this level of popularity intentional in the design or was it a happy accident?

Minus the children, it is pretty dull. What happens there in the cold and rain? If you can't enjoy it year-round, it's probably just a back deck with a really, really nice kiddie pool on it.

Portland needs exterior spaces everyone can enjoy in the cold and rain. Now THAT'S a design problem.


Oh God. I don't like these intimations about noisy kids and sunlight exposure and amusement and being gross and dumping buckers of water and chatter and -- excuse me? -- "it is what it is"? That's not intelligent, that's just repressed, closed and effete. Go back to your wine bars. I can't think of one reason not to like Jamison. And good point: Jamison and Tanner work as a pair. They're better as a sum.


Fountains and kids are steeped in tradition. However, not all fountains are kid friendly.

Take a look at the list of fountains here:

Portland Online Fountains

Which ones would you bring a child to? The Jamison is obviously one of the few kid friendly fountains on the west side of Portland.

I wonder if "elegant" and "kid friendly" are possible in Cloepfil's mind.


It's just so great for there to be a public park downtown where little kids can have some safe, non-competitive fun. It doesn't cost the parents a small fortune to let their kids enjoy this activity. Their parents actually want to join in with them instead of sitting around, bored, waiting for a game to end and so forth.

The design of the water feature is very clever in how the water level comes in and out, a little bit like at the beach, and in doing so, minimizes the potential for injury or drowning.

I'm usually by myself, so I don't usually stick around, but I love passing by during walks around town and watching for awhile what this park has done to bring youth and renewal into the city.

I wonder if the park designer/ water feature designer could have enabled the water feature to be a mini-skating rink in winter for the toddlers, and if that could be practical.

What is Chlopfil thinking of when he says 'elegant' in relation to a park? Does he mean formal plantings, sculpture, dramatic lighting, lawns or stone walkways. Versailles? Vegas? What needed purpose would such a park serve in Portland? Will there be anything for kids to do in such a park? What about the Park Blocks, Chapman and Lownsdale Squares? Aren't they sedate and potentially elegant parks(when the smokers, drinkers, potheads and what-not aren't there)?


As one who lives on Jamison I can say that it is both successful and sometimes a bit overwhelming. Those hot summer days bring hoards of kids, parents circling for parking and staying a good part of the day. It would be easy to complain about that except it demonstrates what a success the park is. Many other parks should be so lucky to have that problem. On the not so hot days it is possible to enjoy Jamison as a quieter place to have a coffee and read or relax.

Residents from all over the city enjoy the park as a place to cool off and have fun when its hot. Locals who live around it can enjoy it often without the hoards. What more could you ask from a park?


If we start with the assumption that this is a park for kids (which I, though kidless, applaud) how great is it that the "play equipment" is not as hideous as it usually is. the fountain could be a brightly colored "jungle gym" instead. egads!

I like kristen's idea of "gateway art"!


eff-you, dobrien, and your wine bar comment, and your ironic nose-thumbing.
Jamison IS gross. Many things are. In fact, many things are far more gross. It's also highly successful and dynamic and I love taking my kids there. In that regard..."it is what it is". So, again, eff-you.

Libby Dawson Farr

Hi Brian - I wanted comment that you site - here - is one of the very few I read diligently and look forward to it. I was surprised also about Cloepfil's comments about Jamison Park. MY experience is with the park on a hot summer or fall afternoon, when families and couples, students, etc., sit on the grass with picnic blankets, and some have deli-take-out from the area, kids have snacks, they like to play in the fountain, most holding their parent's hand, but waiting for the fountain water to "reappear" again, and make a noisy continuing splash for playing. There is a nice hub of noise on those days, with wine, sippy cups, strollers parked near the family, music wafting in, and all ages come together there. And even people-watching, as new combinations of groups, or couples find a place to settle in among the others. It is a park with such ambience that I look forward to going there and spending several hours with family, including toddlers and babies! Also, if you want to take in a nice little exhibit at PNCA, upstairs to the right of the library. My art history students created a work of art inspired by a piece they learned about in class; but the added extra I threw in for them to ponder - was to incorporate an aspect of the 511 NW Broadway building PNCA has acquired. So, there is some remarkable works of art in this little SALON 511 - about 40 students, Some hid their 511 detail pretty well! Anyway, thanks for your wonderful site. Bye, Libby


I can understand Brad's comments in the frame of his aesthetics. When I first saw the park, I thought the same. Particularly at the cost. I've changed my mind though. I like it. Multi bedroom housing, and in the long term, a school in the area could make it into Park Slope. Of course then, people would really dis it!

Consider a progression in neighborhood by age. (This assumes good jobs - get a focus on that Portland!) Shared rental in N, NE SE, further out with time. Cyan or Civic-style condo. Kids. Pearl or dense inner SE multi bedroom condo. House within 82nd. SoWA condo. There are many more possible progressions, but Portland as policy can focus on families wanting to live in city rather than moving to the suburbs. Jameson is a piece of that.


I thought it was originally designed as a contemplative space where adults would watch the water slowly fill the pool, then sit for hours before draining again? But then it became popular with kids and the rest is history...

I am a little worried about the columnar maples on the south side of the block, however - in the future it is going to be a very dark space... and someone is going to have to clean it up in the fall when it fills up with dead leaves.


As a local LA that was involved with a firm that submitted a proposal to design the park, I know that Allied Works also submitted a proposal along with a conceptual design that was required by each firm. Though they lost out to Peter Walker, perhaps Brad could post the design that they envisioned for the park for us to see?

Ice Man

If we're complaining about Jamison, it only feels fair to rip on Tanner Springs, or should that be saved for the next round? Perhaps, Perhaps?

If the two parks are supposed to work as a pair, are they to only act as a pair in their function but not their aesthetic?

Jamison to me wins the prize for a better execution of detailing, material use and space making. Despite what Brad thinks, the water feature and spaces surrounding are appropriately scaled and elegantly detailed.

Tanner Springs to me is both awkward and puzzling from the perspective of the details and the spaces provided, But it has the benefit of time on it's hands. Once the plant material starts growing in, I may feel differently about some of the spaces and uses of material. Until then, I'll keep walking my dog elsewhere.

Ice Man

What if Jamison attracted dog owners with their mutts and not children? What if on a hot day all you saw in the water feature were labs and retrievers "yukin it up" and their owners standing back socializing. Would it be considered a success or a tragedy? Would we all be complaining that the expensive elegant fountain and valuable public space was wasted on slobbering fur balls?

Brooks Jordan

Jamison is a really special place for kids - they love the hybrid "boulder climbing," play area at the edges, and wading pool.

So, I think undeniably it works quite well as space for that.

It's not a traditional park, and I can see how people without children might not make it a first choice, fine. Nor would they go to the Kroger's Farm concerts on Sauvie Island. And that's okay, too.


Ice Man, it took me a second to get your point. It is kind of funny to see the array of trophy dogs on their regular 'walkie' in the pearl. Mutts don't seem to be so common. Being an urban dog owner seems to have become so 'cool' lately. Could a super dog run at Jamieson have silenced critics of the parks' child friendly, but apparently in the minds of some, not so 'elegant' design? Interesting.

Cloephil's use of the word 'elegant' to describe what might have been at Jamieson instead of what came to be there, has now got me curious. I'll be watching for him to offer an example of what might constitute that descriptive word in the character of a new park here in town.

For example, I'd love for him to get city leaders to make a deal with Moyer to not build a tower on PB4 (give him the parking structure to the west...he can put his tower there). Then Brad Cloephil can use PB4 to show us exactly what he means by an 'elegant' park.



Brian - looks like it opened not ten years ago but in 2002 - see link above.


I can just imagine what Cloepfil's "elegant" design for Jamison Square would be considering his architectural work... your typical barren and empty minimalist plaza like those found outside every 1960s skyscraper.


jamison square is a SQAURE!! A plaza, piazza, whatever you prefer to call it. it is NOT a park for contemplative purposes. it is a quintissential urban space (i will not argue how good or bad the design is). when people begin to understand the value of urban plazas, then we can get over how loud or quiet it is. plazas are meant to host nothing and be nothing, rather they just welcome one and all. let the kids play. and those of you who want a park, go over to tanner. or better yet, take a walk to washington park where you can have all the peace and quiet you like.

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