LAWRENCE HALPRIN is the visionary architect responsible for the four astonishing, massive concrete fountains that spread across Southwest Portland's downtown blocks. His fountains are wonderful because it seems unlikely that they can exist: made of inviting waterfalls and sturdy cement platforms, there is not a "Keep Off" sign in sight.
Luckily, Where the Revolution Began, a concise new collection of essays and images explaining how Halprin's unlikely fountains came to be, lives up to its high-minded title. Editor Randy Gragg layers down-to-earth essays about Halprin (and his wife, choreographer Anna Halprin, whose work inspired the design of the fountains) between unique and intimate pages of the architect's own sketchbook. The perfect coffee-table book for Portland architecture nerds has arrived.
Gragg argues that the revolution that began with Halprin was the reshaping of Portland's public space. Halprin's open, modern, fun fountain plazas heavily influenced Portland's entire aesthetic and culture, from Pioneer Courthouse Square to a pro-public mentality in city hall.
In an anecdote that resonates in Portland's politics today, Gragg details how business owners and general squares lashed out in 1968 at free-spirited types who swam in Halprin's first fountain. The suits submitted a 5,000-signature "Petition to Discourage the Influx of Hippies to our City." Thankfully, more tolerant heads prevailed.