Saturday, September 20, 2014

PSU Urban Plaza Fountains

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Here are a few photos of the trio of fountains in the PSU Urban Plaza, on the Portland State campus at SW 5th & Montgomery. Two of the three fountains are sort of tilted aqueduct structures, with water flowing off of both the low and high ends. Water runs down to the low ends and then off, and the design suggests to the viewer that water also flows flows uphill and off the high end as well. Obviously that's not what's actually going on, but at a casual glance it kind of looks that way. The planters next to the fountains are a later circa-2011 addition, part of the city's endless handwringing about stormwater management.

A 2010 PSU Vanguard article questioned whether all the fountains around the campus were really worth the expense. (The others include Farewell to Orpheus on the Park Blocks, and the tiny one outside the Student Health Center.) Apparently the Urban Plaza fountains are prone to leaks and mechanical breakdowns, and the university's fountains cost as much as $300,000 per fountain per year to maintain. (This is on top of the initial construction costs; the marble for the fountain alone ran around $400k).

The fountains were officially renamed in 2012 in honor of the late Joyce N. Furman, a local philanthropist who had given generously to the university over the years. Or at least one of the three fountains was renamed; I wasn't sure the name applies to all three, so I went with the older generic name as a post title. The sign in the plaza says "fountain", singular, so it's possible the other two are being reserved for equally generous future donors. It would be unlike PSU to pass up a naming rights opportunity like that.

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