Thursday, June 14, 2007

Prescott Biozone

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If you've ridden the MAX Yellow Line very often, you might have noticed the big rusty propeller in a small vacant lot next to the Prescott MAX station. You might've wondered if it was left over from our city's seafaring heyday, or you might've just wondered what it was doing there now, or what it was supposed to be advertising. Wonder no longer (assuming you were wondering), for the answers you seek are here. If you weren't wondering, um, hello and welcome anyway, however you ended up at this obscure corner of the interwebs...

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Anyway, it turns out this is not a historical artifact at all. It's Art, and the spot where it sits isn't a vacant lot at all, it's Nature. TriMet's guide to the Yellow Line's artworks calls this place "Prescott Biozone", which is quite the grand and optimistic title if you ask me.


Prescott Biozone
  • A rusted steel propeller
    sculpture flowers amidst a
    swirling pattern of grasses.
  • Three basalt basins
    collect water for birds.

As you can see in the photos, that's pretty much the whole story of the place: Propeller, grass, basins.

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If you check this map for the overhead view, it sure looks like the Biozone is actually one of those traffic-calming sidewalk extension things, except with a propeller, grass, and some basins. That's what happens when you've got a nice pot of urban renewal cash to play with when you're building a MAX line, I guess. ART on FILE has a page about the place, although they don't mention anything about it being a Biozone. Unlike TriMet's brief blurb, they credit the designers, Brian Borello (who also did the blue ox hooves up at the Kenton MAX station) along with Valerie Otani. The page also offers a clearer description of the place:
In recognition of the shipbuilding industry the artists designed stainless steel “ship’s prow” forms that collect rainwater and then funnel it into a green space. A large rusted steel propeller sits near the station in a swirling pattern of grasses. The water running off of the blades of the propeller is captured in three basalt basins and used as water for birds.
So I suppose you'd really need to see the piece in action during a rainstorm to get the full effect. Fair enough. We've got no shortage of rainstorms much of the year, so I guess it's reasonable to put in art that relies on the rain. I started out thinking the place was dumb, and I didn't see the connection between the propeller (a reference to Swan Island, just down the hill to the west) and the whole ecology thing. Now it all makes a wee bit more sense, although I admit I'm taking their word for it. The basins might fill up just as well just letting them sit out in the rain, for all I know. PDX Magazine also mentions the place briefly, calling it "Brian Borello’s visual meditations on rain filtration at the N Prescott St Station".

As an aside, I would like to register my continued displeasure at a current fashion, where people will think something's "green" because it's covered in unmowed, tassely grass. The accursed Tanner Springs Park is full of the stuff. Which to my mind constitutes active governmental persecution of those of us with grass allergies. And what's with all that stagnant basin water? West Nile, anyone? Anyone...?

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