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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

September 2004 Issue

Remembered Rain
In Portland, a stormwater garden celebrates rain falling on an urban setting.

Remembered Rain Bruce Forster

By Theodore Eisenman

Although infiltrating stormwater on site is increasingly important for urban environmental quality, letting rain soak in where it falls has typically been thought appropriate only for suburban locations. American downtowns, where the earth's surface is sealed off with impervious buildings, streets, and parking lots, have not historically been seen as places where infiltration might work.

In the past decade or so, however, Portland, Oregon, has experimented with ways to make its urban environment more porous in order to deal with an annual nine months of almost continuous rain. An early (and highly successful) prototype was the parking lot at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, on Portland's densely urbanized East Bank (see "Let That Soak In," Landscape Architecture, November 1996). There, on a tight site next to an elevated freeway, Portland-based landscape architects Murase Associates designed stormwater gardens that drain and infiltrate most or all of the runoff from the parking lot. This pioneering approach has since been replicated elsewhere in Portland—for example, at the Bureau of Environmental Services (see "The Poetics of Stormwater," Landscape Architecture, January 1999).

Now, in a logical next step, Portland has built an extraordinary rain garden that infiltrates stormwater from the roof of one of its largest East Bank buildings, the Oregon Convention Center.

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