This past July, I was especially pumped for Jessica and Cody’s wedding because it meant I would be taking Lola Event Floral & Design to Portland. In an attempt to squeeze out a tasty glass full of summer fun in this jam-packed season, I booked a spot on a historic sailboat- a floating hotel room courtesy of Holly through Airbnb.
The week prior to the wedding I filled with visits to Portland’s famous gardens and public spaces that I had only read about in landscape architecture books and journals, tours of the areas coffee houses, and a dinner with my bestie from my pre-teen years- long lost but found through the magic of facebook.
In three days I would hit up:
The Japanese Garden
the Rose Garden (eh, the one by the Japanese garden, at least)
and Pittock Mansion.
We’ll tackle the first four today.
My first stop was Lovejoy Fountain, an urban space designed by Halprin and Associates that I’ve oogled over in books since I was a wee landscape design student.
I’ve seen photos in the fall with leaves floating in the pools, photo stilled, clear water running over concrete, people dancing on the floating platforms, etc. Lovely, right?
Not so much. Maddening actually. Not only is the sound of water crashing unnerving rather than relaxing, but the entire space seemed to be a monstrosity, set upon the landscape rather than woven into it. Hard, arrogant, and unwelcoming are words I would use to describe this space. Concrete and water but no life.
Next stop was the Grotto, which I had never heard of but was a place some high seo ranking yelper recommended. The grotto is a many-acred Catholic shrine and botanic garden dedicated to “The Sorrowful Mother.” A little depressing but sounds like it might be lovely.
The grotto is carved out of the rock face of a cliff. Mind slowing chants are pumped from some mysterious speaker, and lush foliage drips off the rocks. Pretty impressive. I can see how the faithful would love to worship in this place. To get to the botanic garden, one must donate a fee to ride up this elevator (or I assume trek up through the woodland). Once I saw this elevator, I had to get in.
If this is the gateway to the botanic garden beyond, then I was about to be wowed indeed. Surely some kind of transformation would occur in an elevator like this. Some amazing experience would be revealed at the top. So I held my breath and pressed the ‘up’ button.
whuh?….. No. My anticipation shriveled. This cannot be the interior to the elevator of transcendence… sigh.
I should have stopped at the elevator. Unfortunately what lay beyond was not inspiring enough to persuade my little finger to nudge the shutter. This place was less botanic garden and more a repository for well intentioned donations chronicling pain and sacrifice. No wonder the Mother is sorrowful. Perhaps a design minded devotee can donate some landscape design expertise.
Thirsty for some coffee and in need of some inspiration, I headed back into the city. Where are the spaces that inspire and engage. Magnetic places? Places where anyone can find some peace, connection, and transcendence? While walking to my next stop, Tanner Springs, I stumbled over Jamison Square.
(Gasp)! This is it! The perfect solution to the heavy handed and misguided Lovejoy Fountain and the depressing Grotto! Jamison Square, the Sanctuary for the Joyful Family. Swarming with people, buzzing with laughter, open and accessible. Thank you, Portland, this place is positively uplifting!
Up the street from Jamison Square is Tanner Springs the kind of landscape inspiration I had been looking for.
This place not only has a function to filter and reduce stormwater runoff, but it also promotes sustainable practices in a way that doesn’t slam you upside the head. Historic railroad and stone is reused in the walkway and art wall, native plants are used throughout, and the site offers a variety of spaces in which to relax.
Historical elements are rearranged into a design for now.
Tanner Springs has places to take a nap and read, or places to people watch.
Stay tuned for more Portland excursions!