Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ira Keller Fountain-Downtown Portland

When I first came to the Ira Keller fountain I was very young. A friend had brought me and I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was so amazed by the waterfalls stretching most of the city block. The summer light hit the water perfectly in every direction. You could tell it made Portlanders so happy by the amount of children and parents running around that I instantly fell in love with the place. It is a symbol that Portland cherishes its city enough to provide energy and space where everyone can come for free to enjoy. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to Portland alone when I was young, so I forgot about the Ira Keller fountain until recently. It was everything I remembered. The Ira Keller fountain works so perfectly in Portland due to its utility, firmness, and beauty that has lasted since its completion in 1970.

            The Ira Keller fountain has 13,000 gallons of water falling per minute that enhance the cities settings and make the fountains utility obvious. As you watch from the lower level of the fountain you can hardly see past the large concrete blocks, which the water falls, giving the appearance that it is coming straight from the city sidewalks. As Vitruvius said by utility there needs to be a “functional arrangement of the rooms and spaces so that there is no hindrance to use and so that a building is perfectly adjusted to its site”. That is exactly what the Ira Keller does. It is flawlessly adjusted so that you see no beginning or end in the.92 acres the fountain occupies in the city. The three sections all reinforce the functional use of the fountain. Its function is for Portlanders to sense or recall the wilderness of the Northwest and enjoy this man made fountain. The lower level provides steps to sit and view the structure. The middle level has cantilevers; it gives you the perception you are floating above the shallow waters with waterfalls above you. Each level is easy to get to as there are stairs on each side and walkways next to them. Finally, to the top where there are pine trees and spaces to sit to enjoy the rustling of streams as they pass you. These all strengthen the structures utility since it is easy to utilize and are flawlessly set to the Portland city block.

            Lucky for Portlanders, the designer Angela Danadjieva who was part of the Lawrence Halprin firm made it built well enough to endure Portland weather. As any Oregonian knows its rains an average of 36.3 inches per year that means the concrete was rightly made to outlast Portland rain. The concrete pieces include big red rocks and it looks aged but definitely sturdy and has weathered well. I was surprised when I really took a look at the material being used and realized it was concrete, I had even tried to look for a more sophisticated word to describe the concrete but couldn’t find one. I then realized that some of the greatest structure developed by the Romans were made of concrete and had lasted thousands of years. The materials used for the fountain worked great. They let the observer know there is firmness in the foundation and that it is solid. The materials used have allowed the structure to continue to stand for nearly 40 years.

            Now I come to the beauty that Vitruvius included in analyzing architecture. The Ira Keller had to be pleasing and in good taste for Portlanders to enjoy it. The Ira Keller appeals to senses in many ways. Through the lighting, patterns, and energy of the water you cannot help but feel calm during a quiet morning or energized during its most popular time during the summer. The feeling I first felt when I saw it brought me curiosity. I was so afraid of falling over the edge. I was amazed I was given the freedom to step on the edge of the waterfall. There were no warning signs or bars to restrict me to getting as close as I wanted. My boyfriend and I had speculated why there weren’t warning signs about falling over the edge for children in a fall that would easily crack their head open. When I recognized that nobody wanted this fountain to be decorated with bars and didn’t want the freedom of looking over the edge to be taken away. Just like they had, I made sure I was careful to not fall. I was young but still so happy to live in such a cool place like Portland where there were crazy waterfalls and pools hiding in the middle of skyscrapers. The designer Danadjieva did Portland a great service in the beauty of her structure when she didn’t just reduce the fountain to the automatic sense of the word fountain. Her idea of fountain was cascades of water from all different sizes of concrete connecting to create shallow and deep pools.  There is beauty in patterning of the different sized of concrete from where the waterfalls come and the patterning below with the cantilevers which I have yet to figure out. I can’t seem to find where they start or end below. The walkways that lead to the top give you different views of light that hits the water; it really gets to you especially on a sunny day when it’s basically blinding. It’s an experience you have never quite had before and will really amaze you. When you go to the Ira Keller during the day you will mostly find people resting in the grass in the upper level and a few people scattered between the dry edges reading book s but during the weekend summer time there will be tons of people in bathing suits laughing and running around. I really think that it’s such a great service for someone who is usually working in an office during the day to be able to have lunch there next to the rustling of the water. The waters rapid streams run all around you. If you look under the small wooden planks that interrupt the pavement you can see small streams that provide all the water .The Ira Keller definitely tells you to come in and enjoy it not stay off and observe.

The Ira Keller fountain is a city landmark. It works in Portland and you can tell by the amount of people that enjoy it every day. It makes sense in Portland; designed to be functional as a community fountain. Its firmness was essential to it lasting in Portland, which it does through its use of concrete and the beauty of the Ira Keller is something you can’t just describe but need to experience to understand. It is everything that the Northwest represents and everything that makes me love Portland. I am sure that this piece of architecture will be in use for generations to come and bring the same delight, amusement, and curiosity it brought to me.