Monday, May 26, 2014

PSU Secret Putting Green

Today's secret Portland spot is a weird one. The Portland State campus is home to a tiny putting green, at the west end of SW College Street, tucked away behind some research greenhouses. It's next to the Peter Stott Center, a university athletic facility, but the university's guide to the place doesn't mention anything about a putting green. Which makes sense, I mean, I'm not a golfer or anything, but it doesn't exactly look like a world-class facility. It's astroturf, for one thing, and there were weeds growing up through the hole when I looked at it, which would never fly at Augusta National. The scenery isn't much either: Greenhouses, a blank brick wall of the Stott Center, and I-405 traffic right next door.

A 2002 PSU Vanguard column describes the writer's love for the putting green, not for the golf, but for the seclusion:

The Putting Green may be filled with the sound of traffic and annoying insects, but I have never actually had to get out of the way of someone golfing there, or doing anything else for that matter. It sits just south of Stott Center, and boasts a lovely view of two or three highways. I would not hang out there too late at night if I cared about my personal well being, but if I cared about my personal well being, I wouldn’t have enrolled in summer session in the first place. Regardless, when I sit at the Putting Green, no one asks me to sign a petition. No preachers damn me. No rock bands set up between me and the rock doves. No dogs, no salesmen, and no friends: I love the Putting Green.

(The other out-of-the-way spot he mentions, which he calls "Top Ramen", is the old Fourth Avenue Plaza, which was torn out a few years ago to make room for the university's new engineering building.)

The first time I dropped by to take photos of the place, there was a guy studying there, and he seemed startled to see another person wander by. So I bailed and came back later, because I wanted photos without any people in them, because it doesn't look properly obscure and forgotten when somebody's sitting there with his nose in a linear algebra textbook. (It might not have been linear algebra, I didn't actually check.)

In 2004, PSU's Student Gardening Committee saw the underused space and lobbied to turn it into a community garden. That didn't go anywhere, as the Stott Center insisted they used it now and then as "overflow space". The student gardeners ended up with a lot at 12th & Montgomery instead, which seems like a much nicer spot for gardening than the putting green site, without all the trees and buildings blocking out the sun.

More recently, this spot figured in ChronoOps: Survive the FuturePast, a student-created augmented reality iPhone game set on the PSU campus. Apparently the plot involves time travel, and hunting for a "green technology" artifact, and avoiding mysterious enemies. Which ends up being a walking tour of the PSU campus, basically. It mostly showcases the endless sustainability projects around the campus, but ventures behind the greenhouses for a bit of sci-fi dystopia. As the creators' paper puts it, "Through juxtaposing scenes of modern technology with long-forgotten projects (a desolate putting green, or old landscaping now overgrown), ChronoOps delivers a visceral and lasting experience." Sadly I can't try the game out because it's iOS-only, and I'm on Team Android. But hey, if there isn't an Android version, how good could it be, anyway?

1 comment :

Barry Cochran said...

I live in the Park Plaza apartments next to the putting green. Several of us use it as a dog park because it's easy to contain your dogs in that space. They did plant a row of trees by the fence a year or so ago. I have a feeling this space will go away when the Viking Pavilion get built, and I'll miss it.