Lawrence Halprin’s Open Space Sequence

Designers: Lawrence Halprin | City: Portland, OR | Project Type: linear park, park system
Date Visited: 12.12.12

Locations: between the South Auditorium Redevelopment District and the Central City to the north
Size: 8-block sequence
Completion Date: 1965 – 1978

Halprin Sketch for Open Space Sequence. Image credit: halprinlc.org

“The South Auditorium District has, at its core, a linked series of public spaces designed by the office of Lawrence Halprin. The Halprin-designed parks are essentially three linked garden rooms forming a connecting realm of public space between the buildings of the South Auditorium Redevelopment District and the Central City to the north. From the south to the north, in a flowing sequence of fountains, paths, and plazas, the experience of the Halprin parks in Portland begins at the “Source Fountain”, which leads to the Lovejoy Fountain, with forms derived from the high desert, on to Pettygrove Park, with forms derived from meandering valley streams and meadows, and finally to the Forecourt Fountain, which recalls the mountains with its dramatic falls and alpine plantings. They embody Halprin’s philosophy that sculptural and landscape forms recognize nature and natural processes as a “driving force” but that the design does not “imitate nature.”” — The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Halprin’s Journal. Image Credit: halprinlc.org

Halprin’s Journal. Image Credit: halprinlc.org

Award-winning and renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin is known and beloved for many works, however, the eight block Open Space Sequence in Portland is my favorite. Much like his other work in urban settings, Halprin endeavors to design space that fulfills a diversity of uses and is choreographed for movement and interactivity. Halprin’s hallmark for bringing “sublime” nature scenes into dense, urban settings–a design style that easily makes Halprin one of my favorite designers–is also most evident in this sequence of outdoor rooms.

Drawing influences from Oregon’s rich natural environment, Halprin uses designed forms, water, and plantings to symbolize rivers, streams, waterfalls, meadows, and the Cascade mountain range. Though many signs have now been put up around Halprin’s works forbidding wading in the fountains, Halprin intended the designs to be participatory–“they say COME IN not stay off.”

I’ve explored the Open Space Sequence from the start at Source Fountain to the culmination of the Ira Keller Fountain. Unfortunately, however, I visited in December, when the fountains shut off for winter. Since I lived in Portland during the summertime four years ago, I’ve seen Halprin’s work at their best: bursting with water and surrounded by people under the sun-dappled shade of a green canopy. So though my photographs don’t do these amazing works justice, take my word for it; Halprin’s Open Space Sequence is a well-celebrated Portland legacy.

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