How Will Portland Design Its Future?

Four thought-provoking discussions seek inspiration for the city's next urban landscape.

By Randy Gragg April 13, 2015

Photo courtesy Flickr user DearEdward

Architecture may define a city’s skyline, but it’s the space between buildings—often called the “public realm”—that make a city’s rich urban life and, in many cases, it’s beauty. That means streets, sidewalks, parks, and prominent features like bridges.

Portland got lucky with its DNA: intimate blocks, generous street widths, and lots of parks and bridges give the city its distinct character. But where to look for inspiration for the future?

The University of Oregon’s John Yeon Center’s Spring Lecture Series, “City Beautiful: Landscape + Infrastructure,” offers three inspiring lectures on the design of the public realm, plus a look at Portland’s most recent success: the newest in its collection of bridges, the Tilikum Crossing.

One of Europe’s leading young landscape architects, Bas Smets, will present his work translating nearly featureless places into dynamic landscapes, large and small, in a talk entitled “Landscape is Fiction.” Philadelphia-based landscape architect and recent Rome Prize winner David Rubin will present “The City is a Landscape: Empathy, Design, and the Space Between Buildings,” on his evolving philosophy of building beautiful public places through greater equity and public involvement. In “The Spirit of Details,” the three principal designers of TriMet’s new Tilikum Crossing will illuminate the design process that created this distinct new landmark for the city. And the innovative sculptor and public artist Michael Singer will offer a look at his three decades of shaping infrastructure projects into bold newlandscapes with “Reimagining Beauty: Creating Living Public Space.

Series schedule

A conversation with Flemish landscape architect Bas Smets
Landscape is Fiction
Making places where there are none
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Jimmy Mak’s
221 NW 10th Avenue
6 p.m.; doors open at 5:30.
Free admission; one drink minimum

David Rubin of Land Collective
The City is a Landscape

Empathy, Design, and the Space Between Buildings
The first annual Douglas Macy Lecture on Landscape Architecture
(Presented in conjunction with the American Society of Landscape Architects Oregon Chapter Symposium)
Saturday, April 18
Shattuck Hall, Portland State University, SW Broadway and Hall Street
3 p.m.
Admission: $10/$5 students

A conversation with the architect and engineers of Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People
The Spirit of Details
Thursday, May 7
Collaborative Life Sciences Building, OHSU
2730 SW Moody Avenue
7 p.m.; reception 6-7 p.m.
Admission: free

A conversation with artist and landscape designer Michael Singer
Reimagining Beauty
Creating Living Public Space
Monday, May 18
Portland Art Museum, Miller Ballroom
6:30 p.m.
Admission: $10/$5 students

The University of Oregon’s John Yeon Center is devoted to inspiring rigorous thinking and public dialogue about architecture, urban design, and landscape through public discussions and with the preservation and programming of the Watzek House, The Shire, and the Cottrell House, three historic properties designed by the visionary designer and conservationist, John Yeon. 

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