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Craig

Oh I get it, rip a community down, no fucking worries people get displaced all the time, put in a bioswale it's "fucking with History"? What a dick.

anonymous

The "Olmsted Brothers" were Fredrick Law Olmsted's sons who took over his firm after his death. FLO's brother was not a landscape architect.

John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920) was FLO's nephew/adopted son and Fredrick Law Olmsted, Jr. (1870-1957) was FLO's son. They were the partners in the Olmsted Brothers firm.

While Fredrick Law Olmsted was alive the firm was known as "Fredrick Law Olmsted, Landscape Architect".

Brian Libby

Thanks anonymous for the clarification. I've amended the original post accordingly.

Craig, you seem to have a legitimate criticism. The history of the South Auditorium is a controversial one with some questionable decisions along the way to some of the nice things like the Keller fountain that got built. But keep in mind that Halprin just died a few days ago and he was a hero to Randy. I'd cut him a little more slack with this one.

Richard

I'm with Craig.

Gragg comes across almost as a parody of the "sensitive aesthete" who's so in love with his own refined sensibility that he lacks any real sense of humanity. He gets all teary over the beautiful symbolism of people joining hands around a fountain in a modern dance piece, but then: "Well, I don’t get all misty over the neighborhood that was lost. There were a few OK buildings that got torn down and, yes, some people were displaced."

If he's not a dick, he's a pretentious, self-absorbed ass.

I know the post is supposed to be about Halprin, but really, why trust Gragg on urbanism? Isn't urbanism supposed to have something to do with people and communities?

mark

The Montgomery green street improvements mentioned do deserve further scrutiny, because they are impacting a number of established public open spaces including the urban center plaza on 6th and Montgomery.

Bob R.

Setting aside the debate in the comments above mine, I'd just like to mention that I was a big fan of his design input into the original shelters on the transit mall. I worked hard, attending many public meetings, to try and save some of these. One unit managed to be retained, and the rest were scrapped. Although thoroughly "modern" in design, they had a whimsical quality which I think was uniquely Portland, and also drew upon stylistic traditions such as those found in the portal entrances to the Paris Metro.

I don't want to get into a huge debate about the new shelters -- I'll say something nice and also a quantitative criticism: The new shelters have a great look that is of our time, and the lighting scheme deserves some kind of design award. However, they simply do not offer the same level of protection from the elements to the rider, nor the same level of interior amenities, and due to the operational decision to cluster boardings at one stop per block instead of two, the new shelters offer effectively half the square footage of coverage per rider than we used to have.

garrett

as far as the redevelopment controversy goes i'll have to side with randy on this one. what his detractors are missing is that the redevelopment was a political decision that was made as palatable as possible by good design (at least in the public spaces), and that the current proposals are design decisions that have a potential social impact. and they seemed to dispatch with randy's research and just focused on his 'pretentiousness'. can they not see the difference here, or are they so hair-trigger offended that they just cant help but make it personal? any time someone lets loose with a sharp opinion around here, they're instantly tagged as offensive and 'pretentious', called a 'dick' and an 'ass'. wow. for such an apparently enlightened populace, it still amazes me after 15 years how thin-skinned and reactionary people can be around here.

Richard

It's not a matter of being thin-skinned. The guy wasn't attacking me.

I just wanted to point out that some of the opinions he expressed were stupid and devoid of any feeling for actual human beings who don't happen to be designers. Given that he fancies himself so damn sensitive to the humanistic possibilities of modern dance, landscape design and urban spaces, his easy dismissal of the real lives of real people makes him come across as a pretentious, self-loving phony. And I wonder why we should value his opinions.

My apologies, Garrett, if this opinion is so sharp that it gets under your skin.

Tanya

It maybe that I was trained on the East Coast by I am glad that Fredrick Law Olmsted, Jr. (1870-1957) was noted as a junior (it was Jr. that designed the Lewis and Clark Fair Grounds for Portland). I have noticed that folks around here skip the Jr. I think the brothers have the same mother.

Just curious was the Kelly Fountain once the site of St. Mary's School or was it another site in that area?

jeremy

Brian,
Both of the pictured projects, Ira Keller fountain, was designed by angela danadjieva not halprin. Please post some of his work.

Kurt

Eric Cantona

jeremy/Kurt:

as i understand it, Danadjieva was the lead designer of the project while at Halprin and Associates. but if you're implying that Halprin (and his firm) should not be given authorship of this work you're nuts.

this is not to say that Angela should not get credit. she is a great designer, and Forecourt Fountain was, to my understanding, her baby. but i've not heard that she worked in a vacuum while at Halprin's firm. if you know differently i'd be interested to hear it.

anonymous

Not to take this off into a Olmsted tangent but...

The "Olmsted Brothers" were genetically half-brothers. You are correct, though, that they both had the same mother. After his brother's death FLO married his brother's widow and adopted his nephew John Charles. Fredrick II was born to them.

If I may recommend, "FLO:A Biography of Frederick Law Olmsted" by Laura Wood Roper. A well-written biography of an interesting life.

k

just to be clear - Randy is not an architect - nor has he trained as an architect - nor does he have any idea what is involved in actually building architecture. Let alone nor does he give a shit about what people need. He is a guy with an opinion, and has had various outlets to deliver those opinions upon us. It is unfortunate this city does not put a higher value on criticism. Then we might actually get some decent critics to be more provocative and less concerned with being dissident while maintaining a constant alignment with chic. Go to other big cities, SF/LA/SEA they all have decent critics, with intellectual insight rather than snobbery and opinion at best.

henry

Please forgive the tired expression, "to make an omelet you need to break an egg". South Portland was not a whole egg to begin with by the time the urban renewal area was declared a slum. The area grew over the years as a west side "transitional neighborhood" mostly occupied by European and near east immigrants who came to the area looking for work in the timber industry, especially the mills and timber yards located in what is now South Waterfront. At one point in time, 1915 to 1952 there were up to 67 dialects recorded in the neighborhood, German, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Jews. South Portland began to "decline" after WWI. Fragmentation of the neighborhood accelerated with the demolition of several blocks for the construction of the Ross Island Bridge west bridge head. Housing and sanitary conditions declined and by 1952 the area was labled a "Slum", a sure kiss-of-death in the post WWII Era. With the construction of Interstate-5 in the mid 1960's the area was divided into at least 4 distinct neighborhood; Corbett-Terwillinger, Lair Hill and Southwest. What integrity remains of the old South Portland can be seen in the South Portland Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While I have empathy for the richness of this lost community, its destruction began long before the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Area began. What we have today is a committed group of neighborhood activists dedicated to realign the follies of the past and to create a new South Portland Neighborhood that transcends the physical barriers of the past to unify under the previous banner of South Portland.

Brian Libby

K,

Thanks for your comments.

I do have to say, though, that I don't think you have to be an architect to be an architecture critic. Or a filmmaker to be a film critic. And so on.

Also, if you ask some of America's top architecture critics in those big cities you mentioned, most of them know Randy personally and would speak well of his criticism in the past.

Also, should I be lumped in with your assessment of Portland as not having some decent critics? If so, why read this blog?

Randy in his comments about Halprin was not especially sensitive to the existing buildings and homes that got torn down when the South Auditorium district was built. But this was an interview he did with his heart on his sleeve when one of the great American landscape architects of the 20th century, and someone whom Randy has covered extensively, passed away.

As I said previously, if you just take Randy's comments about South Auditorium or Project for Public spaces from this Q&A out of context, I don't think you're able to extract the right or intended message from it.

By no means am I saying that people have no right to disagree with Randy. Far from it!!! But if people vilify him for these comments I think that's unfortunate.

k

Brian,
Name recognition with other critics does not ordain him in some way to be a decent critic. These are his fellows, and certainly etiquette would common. All you have to do is read the writings of other critics, and you will see a sharp distinction with objectivity and intellectual insight contrasted to personal commentary and buy-in to fad. With all respect to you and your blog, you do not pretend to be something you are not. I read your editorial from time to time, but wanted to add to the light being shed on Randy by some of the earlier posts. I believe he is not righteous and immune to some honesty of the typical personal opinions he leverages on the art community that is weak with voices. We are entitled to our own opinions – whatever the venue.

randy gragg

Well, geez folks. I have only two things to say:
1)Not one of you presented a single argument beyond simplistic broadside attacks on my qualifications and kneejerk support for a neighborhood and people you never knew (I'd love, for instance, to see you waxing poetic over woodframe, walk-up SROs with six apartments sharing a bathroom -- one of the typologies abundant in that heavenly pre-Halprin neighborhood)

2) I sign my name to EVERY OPINION and am widely available to debate voice to voice and face to face. Not the case with most of you.

Pricks in my skin aside (20 years of writing criticism grows it thick), Brian has done a wonderful thing creating and maintaining this blog. It's sad to me that the conversation can go so low, particularly regarding one of the great designers of the last century who affected Portland in so many positive ways forever. His 1970 study on the Willamette Valley, commissioned by Tom McCall, for instance, played a profound role in helping McCall sell Senate Bill 100, it was among (if not THE) first scenario studies in the history of planning, and it planted the earliest seeds of transit oriented development in Oregon.

But I don't suppose that matters when it's so much fun to debate credentials and personal sensitivities.

There you go, some fresh grain. Peck and cluck away!

Corey Martin

There is no grace in making this personal.

The resonance of the design of the Halpren projects, regardless of how their existence came about, is truly important now. Randy is acting selflessly to ensure that they are preserved in the best way possible. Let's move ahead WITH him to learn why we need to preserve them and how it can best be done.

Bye Bye Birdie

As a Landscape Architect, it's safe to say our profession has lost one of its best. Thank you for the relevant posting.

Former PCAer

I lived in the Portland Center Apartments for a decade and daily walked along the procession from Source Fountain by Lovejoy Fountain to Pettygrove Park and then to Forecourt/Keller Fountain. I never could square my appreciation for the concept and design of the spaces with their actual use. I have a deep ambivalence about the spaces.

For they were desolate most of the time, inert and inactive. To me they were the product of landscape taxidermy: sometimes beautiful, but dead all the same. At least Lovejoy had a whiff of retail to potentially enliven it; Pettygrove is in a walled canyon, and only the Black Box (200 Market) had a door that opened onto it. Keller was clearly the most successful of the bunch, but it was situated in a setting open to buildings with a variety of uses. For all of the environmentalism suggested in the forms of the parks, the hints of mountain streams and rocks, most of them are situated in building monocultures, lacking sufficient diversity of building uses, traffic patterns, and open doors.

But you already said that the Lovejoy needs to be in a “retail district.” Still, I would like them less hidden – also for walking at night.

So, you know, I kindof enjoyed it when someone would put soap in the fountains. The resulting chaos made them alive to me.

I wonder if other readers who actually lived there had similar or different experiences with the spaces as part of the daily texture of their lives.

S Koch

Angela Danadjieva was project manager, the lead member of a larger project team who all worked on the project under the guidance and employment of Lawrence Halprin Associates. Angela should not be credited with designing Keller Fountain any more that Halprin should be credited with designing the Donnell Garden Pool in Sonoma County CA. which was designed by Thomas Church whom he worked for at the time. Halprin had significant influence on the pool specifically as did George Rockrise on the lanai but you don't see published attribution to Halprin or Rockrise.

Angela was not contacted or contracted to design the project, it was by virtue of the success and popularity of the designs of "Lovejoy Cascade and Plaza" that Halprin was asked to continue his work in Portland which extended into the 1970's transit mall. Angela did not weather the politics, pay the salary of everyone that worked on the project team or even conceive of the concept. If you study Halprins archives at the University of Pennsylvania this will be clear to those questioning authorship. If you had asked Halprin directly,like I did, he would have recognized Angela as part of a larger team who helped bring life to a project conceived of and nurtured by him.

For example, would you say that Richard Dinklemeire designed the Bilbao Museum because he interpreted Gehry's sketch and figured out the details?...or did Frank Gehry design it? (BTW Dinklemeire is a fictious name...used to illustrate a point)

I appreciate the tid bit of enriching history and facts that grew out of the topic of Randy's article which is in part a reasonable and dignified outcome of a critical dialoge. Taking pot shots at Randy in a predatory way is not dignified. No one is always right about everything. I don't always agree with his perspective but everyone has a different perspective...its what you call being an individual. Randy's research and effort to bring recognition to the Portland Sequence is dignified and productive. If anyone out there believes they know more about the social climate during the time the Halprin projects were conceived of and executed then share your wealth of information for all to learn from. Save your breath with your crasness and rude remarks.

Jeff Joslin

Randy embarked on a multi-year deep investigation and analysis into not simply the parks, but Larry's broader role and impact on Oregon's overall land use sensibilities and initiatives. The results serve to remind us of who we were, and inform us of some of the reasons we are who we are. This research was done for one principle reason: because it matters. While his opinions about certain aspects of Haplrin's legacy and its implications are opinion, there's no one more informed and more entitled.

What others, who've have characteristically anonymously used this to vent old personal prejudices better handled in therapy, have done is grotesquely and irreverently pervert a truly personal homage to a brilliant artisan who's passed. Appalling.

Thank you, Randy, for your effective and lasting contribution to the propelling of the Halprin legacy. And for this addition as well.

Peter Stubbs

Randy,
While I'll not "wax poetic" over the specific SROs razed, I will step forward and defend them in principle. SROs were an important part of the housing stock of many large cities, Portland included. Being able to work here and there and still afford the most meagre of shelter is what kept more than a few folks at the margins of society from being homeless, and SROs, even the ugly ones, were often the only housing that fit that bill. The zeal with which they were scraped off the maps of virtually every major metropolis was compounded by the fact that in most cases the residents were, unlike long-term renters and home owners, given cab fare and a stern look and little else. Paul Groth's book Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States (1994) is a good exploration of the issue.

Again, I'm not defending the quality of the particular buildings razed, not because I think they were low quality but because I simply don't know the buildings. The type however was an important one, and the importance and success of recent SROs designed by folks like Rob Quigley in San Diego and a more hybrid SRO, 8 NW 8th by SERA & Central City Concern, point to the moves made in the South Auditorium district as problematic from an urbanistic point of view at the very least.

While I'll concede that the area surrounding his complex of parks and spaces here was better executed than many contemporary plans in other cities (say, the Western Addition in SF) it still feels like they're head and shoulders above the rest of the new development. Seeing Lovejoy largely empty is like seeing a classic '50s Chevy, fully restored, sitting in a garage untouched. Something is quite wrong. These spaces need more people, and were clearly designed to be animated by many users. That a series of spaces so highly praised by someone like Ada Louise Huxtable is so incredibly underutilized has to call into question the larger urban context. Simply being better than other, more botched jobs is not enough.

All that having been said, I realize I'm picking nits. Thank you for the elegy. Halprin deserves no less. I was lucky enough to take a class in the Bay Area that was an examination of several different urban environments via walking tours (led by the previously mentioned Paul Groth). Halprin's work, from Sproul and Levi Plazas to Greenwood Common, loomed large in our understanding of the Bay Area. I was never lucky enough to meet the man, but his spaces are still here to visit, and at a time like this that will have to be enough.

goose

too bad the early comments missed the point of this post. sometimes it is merely a time to appreciate what we have been given by previous generations. life is about change and growth. sometimes destruction and displacement serve the greater whole. (and i'm a preservationist.) it is all just part of the urban drama. luckily, through that process, portland was given the gift of the halprin blocks, which will hopefully remain for a very long time. they are truly one of the city's greatest assets. personally, i love how hidden they are. i can't think of anywhere else in town where i feel almost completely alone yet also like i'm in the very heart of this city all at once.

Kyle

The Halprin sequence of parks and fountains are gems in the city. It is too bad that the South Auditorium swallowed two of them up including the source fountain. Maybe this is a nice urban renewal development compared to other cities, but it also shows some of the failures of urban design theory of the time. It has a utopian, with auto and pedestrian zoning that has a slight resemblance of a Corbu ideal (the radiant city). The winding roads meandering to the Ross Island bridge, and the pedestrian corridors through this part of the city, make it seem a little desolate. It relies on the pedestrian on foot to make it active – not a real vibrant urban solution. Maybe at the time the South Auditorium was thought as a fringe of the city. Today it sits as an island between the city and the Corbet/Lair Hill neighborhood cut off by the planning and the spaghetti of the Ross Island Bridgehead. It would be great if we could have another force of renewal, not to tear down a community, but to make connections and stitch these gems into the fabric of our city. I Love the fountains, but do wish that the city could better benefit from this thoughtful sequence of open spaces.

Randy Gragg

Peter Stubbs,

No quarrel on the value of the SRO typology. Apologies if my dismissal of them in S. Auditorium seemed pejoriative. Indeed, Quigley's version in San Diego is excellent. I'm guessing it will be a type we will see rise on more corners nearby given, well, everything (rising energy prices, prolonged economic anemia).

Those in S. Auditorium, were wood-framed walk-ups-- not built to last.

And in response to all those folks fretting about the population displaced from S. Auditorium, two points of fact:
1)The PDC found all of them new housing (As historian Carl Abbott pointed out in a lecture he and I gave on S. Auditorium, PDC chair, Ira Keller, the most powerful guy in town, had a long record of working on affordable housing issues). In interviews done by the PDC and the Oregon Journal at the time, many of those moved PREFERRED their new housing.
2) The vestiges of the "old" neighborhood were already in decline. Originally a Jewish neighborhood (with 5 operating synagogues) it was shifting to a new generation of Italian and E. Euro immigrants as the Jews were headed further south to a new generation of housing. For sure, some folks were extremely unhappy about the PDC's clearing of the neighborhood (In my slide shows, I use a an image of a woman who has posted a manifesto against the PDC in her Deli window). But the neighborhood was in deep transition.

For sure, a more selective demolition would have been better. But to impose our great wisdom today retrospectively--is the kind of 20-20-hindsight that amounts to historical blindness. Lest we forget that the PDC's scraping of the neighborhood and its threat to send the bulldozers further south caused the Lair Hill neighborhood to rise up and organize, giving birth to Portland's neighborhood movement.

 janet nash williams

Thanks for the great salmon you caught & cooked up in Sea Ranch for our mom, thanks Larry & Anna for being such great friends, thanks for bringing so much beauty to the world, we will never foget you Larry H. Love to Anna, Daria & Ronna, Peace be with you, Janet, Joan, Judy, James X,Jarrett, Justine, Nash,inc.

Chuck

I came across this post going thru the archives. I was a junior or senior in high school when the Lovejoy fountain was completed. We used to climb around it and cool ourselves off in the water. The city leaders - especially councilman Frank Ivancie - tried outlawing such activity. But Halprin protested and said it was designed for people to climb on. By the time the Forecourt fountain was completed it was expected that people were going to play in its wimsical design.

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