Giant Umbrellas Turn a Public Space into a Water Cleaning Art Garden

portland sculpture garden umbrellas kpffKPFF Stormwater Cinema/Video screen capture

Portland knows about the importance of public green space- it even has a movement dedicated to ripping out asphalt and giving the land back to nature. So it's no surprise that the Oregon city is home to a lovely new public garden and fountain at what was once a dangerous intersection. Even better: it's designed to clean and drain rainwater.

On 45th St in northeast Portland, the Providence Office Park II commissioned KPFF Consulting Engineers and Vala-Christensen Landscape Architects to take advantage of a space created by a rerouted intersection. The aesthetically pleasing and functional design consists of four enormous bronze umbrellas (weighing 1.5 tons each) designed by artist Michael Maiden, as well as seating space, grass and a narrow bioswale.

portland sculpture garden umbrellas kpffKPFF Stormwater Cinema/Video screen capture

Three of the umbrellas provide shade for tables; the fourth is upturned and sits at one end of the bioswale. This is the fountain. When it rains, storm water that falls on the building's roof travels down through a pipe and is pumped into the open umbrella. From there it spills into and flows through the plant-filled space, then moves into an underground rock trench. Both the bioswale and the rock trench filter the water; the system keeps it from pooling in the streets.

It's a great way to add access, beauty and functionality to a public space; there should be more designs like this in urban centers everywhere. To learn more about the story, watch "Under One Umbrella," a short film by Portland filmmakers filmmakers Jen Wechsler and Ian Probasco.

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