Friday, July 20, 2012

Fountain, Union Bank of California Tower

fountain, union bank of california tower

A few photos of the groovy modernist fountain in the underground parking garage of the equally groovy & modernist Union Bank of California Tower, in downtown Portland. Longtime Gentle Reader(s) might recall one of these photos showing up here before, in this post from August 2006. And the other two photos here are from the iPhoto archives and are almost as old. I also mentioned the fountain and promised to take photos of it way back in March 2006, when this humble blog was just a few months old. But somehow, even though public fountain photos show up here a lot, I've never quite gotten around to doing a post about this one. The main problem being that I was never able to find any info about it. (But I did later; please see the "Updated" section, below.)

fountain, union bank of california tower

The library's Oregonian database is a little help once again. If the fountain has a name, I haven't discovered it, nor do I have an artist's name to pass along, but I do have a fun vintage argument about it to pass along. In a famous 1970 article about downtown Portland, the New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable singled this little fountain out for criticism:

The Bank of California building even put a fountain below grade in its garage at the incongruous corner where the cars turn around it onto the exit ramp, a switch Bernini never dreamed of. In the age of the automobile, it has a kind of ludicrous logic.

William Allen, one of the building's architects, wrote a letter in response, and defended the fountain:

Miss Huxtable's one specific criticism of the Bank of California building is of the sculptured fountain set in the curve of the exit ramp on the first parking level, which she speaks of as "incongruous" and "a switch Bernini never would have dreamed of," yet with a "ludicrous logic".

Perhaps Miss Huxtable has never conceived of the idea that a space for the automobile, used for parking and drive-in banking, deserves an attractive architectural treatment and the enhancement of a work of art. Futher, we consider her allusion to Bernini a compliment. Historically he is considered a great architect, and is perhaps most noted for the great curving arcades which embrace the plaza in front of St. Peters in Rome.

May we say in all modesty that the curving exit ramp embraces the fountain with a similar felicity. Obviously Miss Huxtable likes neither Bernini nor curves. Degustibus non est disputandum.

Updated: I was wandering through the Oregonian database again (3/23/13) and found one more tidbit. From an article in the November 4th, 1977 Oregonian, "Wet your whistle with a tour of Portland's fountains":

Another courtyard fountain is in the center of a glassed-in garden court, part of the lobby of the Bank of California. A five-foot mushroom shape, it was designed by an Australian, Robert Woodward, a famous fountain sculptor.

But while there, one must really look at perhaps Portland's most unlikely fountain located at the exit of the underground parking garage of the Bank of California. This gusher was entitled "Untitled," by the San Francisco designer Aristides Demetrios.

It's not every city that has a fountain underground.

Now that we have a name, additional details are available to us. He has an extensive Wikipedia bio, for one thing, which even mentions this fountain briefly, as one of his earliest major commissions: 1969 FOUNTAIN, Bronze, 6' x 6' x 4', The Bank of California, Portland, OR. His personal website includes many photos of various fountains he's created, with even more photos in a Picasa album. None of this particular one, but you can see an obvious family resemblance in several of the others.

So I'm going to go ahead and declare this mystery solved.

fountain, UBC building

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