Monday, August 19, 2013

Fourth Avenue Plaza

4th Avenue Plaza

This post, unusually, is about a public space that no longer exists: The former Fourth Avenue Plaza, an odd park-like area on SW 4th Avenue at Hall. Several years ago, in a very early post about bad local art, I went a bit over the top while snarking about the place:

... a tall cylinder covered in ceramic tiles, all in the same burnt orange color. It was set in a small grassy plaza, with a long series of steps leading up to it as if it were some sort of edifying monumental work. A formal setting, but with mute, soul-crushing emptiness at the center: Instead of a winged Victory, there was a parking garage pillar, encrusted in tiles swiped from a groovy 70's-era public toilet. It's gone now, plaza and all, replaced by Portland State University's new CompSci building. I'd have to call that a real, quantifiable improvement. No word on what happened to the old "sculpture". Perhaps it was dynamited.

4th Avenue Plaza

I didn't manage to get any photos of the place before they tore it out, so I left it at that. Vintage Portland recently did a post about the place, which was once known as "Fourth Avenue Plaza", and the post included a color photo of the plaza. So I kind of wanted to pass that link along, and I figured I could at least snap a few quick phone photos to show you what the area looks like now. The key thing to understand is that it was never a city park; it was a landscaped area on top of the underground parking garage for an adjacent Pacific Northwest Bell office.

It won a number of awards when it was created in 1976, including a Community Improvement Award from the Portland Chamber of Commerce, and an award from the Portland Beautification Association, whatever that is or was. They called the plaza "perhaps the most skillfully disguised parking structure in this city" and raved "in a place where (the company) may have built just another highrise, landscaped parking lot, we have instead a stunningly handsome space." So, tastes vary widely over time. Sic transit gloria mundi and all that. The rest of the Beautification awardees are a fascinating slice of mid-1970s Portland aspirations: The KGW Neighborfair (an annual festival in Waterfront park that ran through some time in the late 80s or early 90s.), the new Galleria mall (before all its stores cratered), and McCarthy Park on Swan Island.

The column may have been dubious mid-70s art, or it may have been a decorated vent for the underground garage, I'm not really sure which. There's a similar, surviving column a bit further north on 4th Avenue, which may be a second garage vent, or a second of whatever the first one was. I'd been kind of hoping it was the same column, just relocated, but the surviving one looks smaller, and it's brown instead of orange. I guess because it was the 70s and you had two of anything, one of them had to be brown and the other one orange.

4th Avenue Plaza

If I'm understanding old versus new photos correctly, Fourth Avenue Plaza was roughly in the spot of the present day TECOTOSH sculpture, and the "Gerding Edlen Development Plaza" it sits in. Maybe PSU had to agree to build a new plaza here as part of the building permit process, sort of like what developers have to do with wetlands mitigation. Or it just sort of worked out that way.

4th Avenue Plaza 4th Avenue Plaza

No comments :