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Ira Keller Civic Theatre Forecourt Fountain in Portland Oregon
Water Fountains Inspired by Waterfalls in the Cascades Mountains
|In front of Portlandís Civic Auditorium, at SW 3rd Avenue and Clay Street, lies the Ira Keller Civic Theatre Forecourt Fountain, known commonly as Iraís Fountain or the Keller Fountain Park. Covering nearly an entire acre in downtown Portland, the park includes cascading water fountains, walking paths, bronze statues, and even wi-fi access, all open to the public from 5 a.m. to midnight. The abstract styled garden fountain was inspired by the waterfalls in the Cascades Mountains in Northwest Oregon.|
The water fountain holds seventy-five thousand gallons of water, with thirteen thousand gallons of water circulated per minute through the parkís array of platforms and terraces. Constructed of concrete, with interlaced squares of concrete slabs serving as walkways throughout the winding cubes of rushing waterfalls and collection pools, landscaped with native trees, mosses, and plants, the water fountain is a city landmark which was immediately widely acclaimed as a successful open urban space. The sound of the rushing water is quite loud, and drowns out most of the bustle of the surrounding downtown Portland business district.
Angela Danadjieva, one of two designers of the water fountain, created a carving of her design from a block of clay, resulting in a cubist style design for the water feature. Lawrence Halprin, Lawrence Halprin Associates, is noted as the architect who proposed the water fountain, which was formally acquired by the city in 1968. Halprinís other commissions include Ghirardelli Square on San Francisco Bay, Sea Ranch in Northern California, and Lovejoy Fountain Plaza, also in Portland Oregon, which was completed just before the installation of Iraís Fountain, in 1966.
The Keller Fountain Park was originally named the Forecourt Fountain when it was completed in 1970. In 1978 the water fountain was renamed after Ira C. Keller, who is credited with being the driving force behind the movement for urban renewal in Portland during the 1970's.
Although the park has been a city landmark since its installation, recent years have seen criticism of the urban space as being drab, outdated, inaccessible, and dangerous. Widely considered to adhere to designs that would never be implemented in current urban public areas, visitors to the fountain are cautioned to use care with the slippery surfaces and rapidly flowing water, and pay careful attention to children inside the park. In the 1990's the Portland Water Bureau performed a major restoration of Iraís Fountain, at a cost of three-quarters of a million dollars, to restore loose rock surfaces, leaks, shifting of the concrete, substandard electrical components, and make other age-related repairs. The chlorination system was automated and updated to protect public health as well. In 2005 the Bureau modified the pump and motor systems to reduce power usage by seventeen percent.
In order to conserve water, the water flowing in Portlandís decorative water fountains is recycled and is not suitable for drinking. However, for public safety the water is chlorinated to levels comparable with swimming pool water. The fountains are turned off during winter months for repairs and maintenance.
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