Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Sunnyside Piazza

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If you happen upon the quiet intersection of SE 33rd and Yamhill, just one block south of Belmont, you'll immediately notice the intersection's painted up as a gigantic sunflower. This is Sunnyside Piazza, one of the first and best-known "intersection repair" efforts from Portland's City Repair Project. I've posted photos of a couple of other examples that I've run across, and I have a couple more of them in the pipeline. I guess I like these things because they're so idealistic. I tend to be a cynical person by nature, and a bit on the antisocial side; these community projects are a little antidote to my usual stomping around and scowling at the world, I guess. It's not the specific designs, exactly (though I'm fond of the spiral sunflower design here), but that they're impermanent and require a big neighborhood block party every year to repaint them. So I imagine that not all of these things will endure after the initial burst of enthusiasm wears off. And it's not like it's practical to do one at every intersection; you'd run out of willing neighborhood volunteers long before that.

It's a shame there's nowhere to put one in my downtown neighborhood. All the streets around here are way too busy, and most of them have MAX or streetcar tracks running through them. It's a shame because I think I'd be pretty good at brainstorming designs. The moon, maybe, or a giant octopus, or a Deep Space Nine wormhole, or Pac-Man, or a crop circle, or maybe a Sarlacc pit, or a surreal Escher design to confuse passing motorists. Some of these might be a bit tough for amateur street painters to pull off in a weekend, though, and others might have trademark issues. Feel free to swipe any of these notions for your local intersection if you like though.

Couple of links about Sunnyside Piazza and places like it:

  • Nomination for a Project for Public Spaces award.
  • City Repair page about the annual repainting, part of their city-wide "Village Building Convergence". It describes the project:

    One of the most famous and iconic of all the city's intersection projects, the re-painting of the Sunflower is a long standing tradition during the Village Building Convergence and this year is no different.

    This project is one of the few public places in the world to incorporate Fibonacci geometry. With its vibrant colors of yellow, orange, red and green, this street piazza is considered by many to be the heart of the Sunnyside Neighborhood, whose symbol is the Sunflower. With the Sunflower just a block off bustling Belmont street, this intersection is admired daily by neighbors and local business patrons alike.

  • A short YouTube time lapse clip of the 2011 repainting.
  • Info page from the metal fabrication firm that created some of the metal work that goes along with the street design here.
  • A positive 2009 OregonLive article, since the paper hadn't yet evolved into today's hysterical right-wing tabloid. There aren't even any angry all-caps comments below the story.
  • A nice Sightline Daily article about the "intersection repair" phenomenon.

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