Situated across from the Keller Civic Auditorium in downtown Portland, the Ira Keller Fountain is a full-block sculpture/watergarden. Originating with a serene, level plaza cut by several thin, submerged streams representing a myriad of natural water ‘conditions’– lazy stream, bubbling brook, riverlet–the park block culminates at a dramatic, sculptural outcropping of concrete and riverrock forms over which the water cascades at varying velocities.
Designed in 1970 by renowned San Franciscan landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, the garden fountain is described thus:
The space is choreographed for movement with nodes for quiet and contemplation, action and inaction, hard and soft, yin and yang. The second basic approach was to bring into the heart of downtown activities which related in a very real way to the environment of the Portland area – the Columbia River, the Cascade mountains, the streams, rivers and mountain meadows. These symbolic elements are very much a part of Portlanders’ psyche…. Finally these places were for the first time designed to be used to be participatory – NOT just to look at- they say COME IN, not stay off.
From my earliest days discovering Portland as a curious pedestrian, I have loved this fountain. The serene and simplistic cuts of water at the upper plaza, coupled by the dramatic roar and sheer dynamic force of the cascading water over the lower formations, is a delightful departure from the urban setting.