Top 100 Public Spaces in the U.S.

Ira Keller Fountain - Portland, OR

Ira Keller Fountain




This 1 acre downtown Portland Fountain from 1970 may not be the most classicallly beautifully thing ever, but it does evoke the crashing Oregon streams and rivers nearby and is a wonderful place to passively engage with (reading a book) or actively engage with (splashing around). Well designed into the site it is a great little pocket amid the 70's era bad buildings in downtown PDX. And one of the best things about the Ira Keller Fountain is that is has somehow escaped the extreme liability concerns that have plagues America's public spaces - everyone is free to walk right up to the edges, swim in the pools and splash around.


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"[T]he fountain's 1970 unveiling became a local legend. (Jane Jacobs attended) Held in the edgy days following a violent clash between Portland police and antiwar protesters, the dedication took on the mood of a Wild West drama as city officials gathered for speeches at the foot of the fountain and hundreds of youths assembled at the top. When the spigots released the fountain's 13,000-gallon-a-minute flow, however, any tensions quickly dissolved. While the officials politely applauded, the youths jumped in to the rallying cries of "Right on!" "These very straight people have somehow grasped what cities can be all about," Halprin said, turning from dignitaries to revelers to emphasize the democratic spirit underlying his design. "As you play in this garden, please try to remember that we are all in this together".[15]"


"In 1993, all city departments were requested by mayor Vera Katz to identify areas where budgets could be reduced,[19] and the Portland Water Bureau suggested mothballing fountains, including the Keller Fountain.[19] The Oregonian stated "administrator Mike Rosenberger said the fountains were not an essential service, but he conceded that he would probably be taken out and shot before the public allowed him to shut the water off."



10 votes
Idea No. 25