Merit Award -- Communications
Eastbank Esplanade Urban Markers
Carol Mayer-Reed, FASLA, Principal-in-Charge; Irene Bowers, Project Manager;
Michael Reed, Lead Designer; Beverly Eichenlaub, Job Captain; Wesley Rittenbery,
319 SW Washington
Portland, OR 97204
Statement of Purpose: The Urban Marker project is part of the new Eastbank Esplanade, a 1.5-mile
riverfront pedestrian and bicycle trail funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the City of Portland. The Urban Markers symbolically connect the river to the adjacent industrial district and residential neighborhoods that were isolated by the construction of Interstate 5 freeway in the 1960s. These 20-foot tall, stainless steel, structures mark thirteen intersections where city streets historically met the riverfront. Designed to evoke the industrial character of the historic Willamette River bridges that cross over the trail, the markers incorporate street signs, luminaries and interpretive story panels.
Community Context: An important aspect of the rehabilitation of the Eastbank riverfront was overcoming the social stigma of the formerly derelict site. Each Urban Marker and its colorful porcelain enamel steel interpretive panel offers an interesting story about the place. The panels bring forth quotes, images, graphic illustrations of bridge details and an engineering section of a sea wall. Furthermore, they illuminate for the general public some new, experimental concepts such as salmon recovery and bioengineering of riverbanks.
Seven story themes of the interpretive panels chronicle the history and evolution of the riverfront, and provide a framework for considering the environmental and urban choices that affect the city and the life of the river. Story themes include Transportation, Commerce, Eastside and Westside Development, Bridges and Ecology of the River. Each interpretive panel tells its story from the most advantageous location or viewpoint along the trail, where the subject can be directly observed or best understood.
Role of the Landscape Architects: Along with the design of the trail, the landscape architects developed an Art and Interpretive Plan for the entire Eastbank Esplanade project. This plan included the concept of placing a freestanding steel pylon at the centerline of the historic street intersections to not only recognize this historic relationship, but as a wayfinding device. Scope included design of the markers and an "experiential" approach for the interpretive panel themes and stories. The interpretive panels and wayfinding maps were designed using in-house graphics staff. The landscape architects led a team of historians, bridge experts and ecological consultants to research, develop content and write copy.
Special Factors: The Eastbank Esplanade is located in a gritty, urban environment between the riverbank and the freeway. While acknowledging the industrial aesthetic of the area, the historic drawbridges, and the steel and concrete character of the Eastbank trail, the Urban Markers are also a beacon to the future evolutionary urban changes of the riverfront.
Significance: For the citizens of Portland, the stories provide an awareness of the vital linkage of the past and present in understanding choices that were made about this place in the central city. As an example, there is a public debate concerning options to remove or replace the 1-5 freeway in order to open up development along Portland's riverfront. Eastbank story panels graphically portray the changes that have occurred along Portland's waterfront, including historic photographs of the intact city fabric and the active commercial waterfront prior to the freeway's construction. The Urban Markers and interpretive panels provide the opportunity for trail users to stop, visualize and consider the value of informed decision-making in the creation of a livable city. However brief the presentation of information, the topics are certain to spark curiosity and conversation about Portland and its river.