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Preserving Modern Landscape Architecture in Portland

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Presented on September 12, 2008

Charles Birnbaum

"In the mid-1960s, Portland experienced a revo¬lution in public space with plazas designed by Lawrence Halprin and Associates. On September 12, Charles Birnbaum of the The Cultural Land¬scape Foundation will put the plazas into the larger context of the Modern landscape movement in America as part of City Dance—a week-long series of events celebrating Halprin’s work—and will offer strategies for future stewardship.
Situated in the city’s first urban renewal district amid Lovejoy Fountain, Pettygrove Plaza and Fore¬court Fountain (renamed Keller Fountain), the pla¬zas merged water, landscape, sculpture and urban design into dramatically designed places to play. During a period when U.S. cities were full of pro¬test, Life Magazine in 1968 presented pictures of children and adults playing in Lovejoy’s alpine-like cascade. Days after the Kent State shootings and Portland’s own violent anti-Vietnam War protests in 1970, Forecourt Fountain opened with a dancing, splashing party led by Halprin himself, wherein The New York Times architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable dubbed the plaza “one of the most im¬portant urban spaces since the Renaissance.”
Charles Birnbaum is founder and president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, Birnbaum spent 15 years as coordina¬tor of the National Park Service Historic Landscape Initiative and a decade in private practice focus¬ing on landscape preservation and urban design. Birnbaum’s most recent projects include the award-winning, on-line series, Cultural Landscapes as Classrooms and editing Design with Culture: Claiming America’s Landscape Heritage."

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