Portland Fountain Tour: Ira Keller Fountain

OK, so I admit it, Portland gets a lot of rain, but in summer when the rains make way for a few months of sun, we somehow miss the rain. When the temperature peaks, and that means over 80 for us, Portlander’s head for the fountains – our surrogate for rain, and use it to cool ourselves down. One of the most popular fountains for watching people enjoy themselves is the Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain. While there are discrete signs that suggests that this is not a wading pool and that care should be taken while enjoying the fountain, the residents and officials of the city seem to agree that the fountain was perfectly designed for this very activity and that while elements of danger exist, it would just not be Portland to build a fence across it to keep people away from the edge, or plaster large DANGER signs everywhere. Just one of the reasons why I love to live in Portland!

Designed by Angela Danadjieva, originally from Bulgaria and studied in Paris, she was given a book about the waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge to use as inspiration. She was working for Lawrence Halprin, a noted designer of plazas and urban parks in the 70’s. The design of the fountain also incorporates elements of movement and dance into the way in which it is constructed. It is located between SW 3rd and 4th Avenues, Clay and Market Streets.

It was constructed at a cost of $512,000 and the fountain pumps 13,000 gallons of water per minute. How much is 13,000 gallons – enough to keep a single person alive for a lifetime, or the average amount of water used by a person in 9 months.

This is the last in a series of Halprin plazas and fountains that are meant to emulate the passage of water from the mountain tops down to the lowlands. We will also be seeing Pettygrove Park, Lovejoy Fountain Plaza and the Source or Chimney Fountain.

In other parts of the country many of Halprin’s works are becoming tired, worn out or too expensive to maintain and being destroyed, so in 2001, the Lawrence Halprin Landscapes Conservancy was formed to help preserve his legacy in Portland.

Ira C. Keller was the first chairperson for the Portland Development Commission and we shall see the result of more of his impact as we continue along this fountain tour. By some reports, Ira was a little dictator and some of his urban renewal plans were unpopular at the time, but he had the courage and fortitude to push forward with his plans. He became the first citizen of Portland when he stepped down as the PDC chair in 1972. One of the last parts of the urban renewal program was the construction of the Auditorium Forecourt, later named for him after his death in 1978.

Somewhat confusingly, the Civic Auditorium opposite 3rd street from the Forecourt was renamed the Keller Auditorium in 2000, not for Ira Keller, but for Richard B. Keller – his son.

To learn more about Portland’s wonderful fountains click here

Brought to you by Brian Bailey

Kenroy Home Portland Sound Floor Fountain


An Architectural Guidebook to Portland

4 thoughts on “Portland Fountain Tour: Ira Keller Fountain

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *