Thursday, May 13, 2010

Congress Square redesign

Last night the city of Portland held a meeting to gather public input regarding redesigning Congress Square. Congress Square currently is a sunken empty tar covered space filled often with vagrants. This situation is not unique to Portland and follows closely the history of Copley Square in Boston. In the sixties, Sasaki Associates won a competition to design Copley Square and responded with the trendy sunken plaza with angles and steps. Back at turn of last century, the plaza had been home to all of Boston's cultural stars such as MIT, Trinity Church, Museum of Natural History, Library, etc. Some of these institutions left and the 60's design was supposed to make this a jewel to celebrate the great location. Here's a shot of a proposal for Copley in mid 1800's:
Unfortunately, the sunken plaza became a great place for vagrants and drug dealers. Sound familiar? So Boston held another competition in the early 80's to redesign Copley Square and the result is a very successful flat park with a big lawn, trees, benches, lighting and a signature fountain. 

Copley Square also hosts a farmer's market:

Portland can learn a lesson from Boston in this regard.

Proposals suggested at the workshop last night included: Andy Graham's wonderful idea of a winter garden, useable year round to be with plants; a suggestion of a major water feature and a major sculpture; a suggestion of a flat plane filled with large trees with their branches removed up to a fairly high height as seen in St. Petersburg, Russia; and to make the place nice enough that restaurants would put tables there or street vendors would set up.

All were in favor of making sure some kind of authority would care for the upkeep and cleanliness of the  space as the Portland Downtown District does for Tommy's Park.

By eliminating the sunken plaza and making a flat-like surface at level of Congress St. sidewalk and putting in plenty of trees, we can only succeed.

No comments: