Jamison Square Fountain

A cascade, a pool, and so much more...

Water is one trick designers always have up their sleeve if they want to attract a crowd.

A true honeypot of public space design, thoughtful ponds, cascades, rills, reflecting pools, pop jets, bubblers and other watery wonders will draw people in every time.

They can be big, small, solemn or silly, and some of them manage to appeal to people of all ages. A rare few even look good without any water.

One such marvel is the Jamison Square Fountain in Portland.

The Fountain was built in the mid-2000s and is a well-publicised urban water feature, but it’s worth revisiting to remember just why it’s been so successful.

1. A catalyst for change

Jamison Square was a catalyst project for the redevelopment of the Pearl District, to the north of downtown Portland. Once home to railway yards and light industry, The Pearl is now a textbook urban renewal neighbourhood of mid-height buildings, thousands of new residents, ground floor shops, generous, walkable footpaths, convenient public transport and a variety of parks and public places.

2. Simple concept

The design concept is incredibly simple. There are only three elements to Jamison Square: a timber ‘boardwalk’ – a timber footpath effectively, that runs along each block of The Pearl towards the river, and recalls the former riverfront walkways; a gallery – a number of large-scale public artworks are installed; and the fountain itself.

Looking into the Square from above. The boardwalk is in the foreground. Look for the row of stone blocks snaking through the middle of the park.  Image: Flickr User pondskipper via Wikimedia Commons.

Looking into the Square from above. The boardwalk is in the foreground. Look for the row of stone blocks snaking through the middle of the park. 
Image: Flickr User pondskipper via Wikimedia Commons.

The contemporary totem is one of four artworks marking the entries to Jamison Square.

The contemporary totem is one of four artworks marking the entries to Jamison Square.

3. An engaging experience

The backbone of the Fountain is a long wall, slightly curved in the middle. It is made of chunky, stacked stone blocks, perfectly arranged for little kids to negotiate the top with someone holding their hand, or for big kids to dash along.

Beyond the wall the stone stacks decrease in height and vary in spacing. In some places it’s still possible to make the entire journey on the stone steppers. Elsewhere it becomes trickier once you add in…the water.

On regular intervals water starts to spill out of cracks and crevices in the rock. It starts in the middle with a tiny trickle, then moves on the rock stack next door, then the next one, then the one in front, and so on until it some places the water is 300mm deep.

The pavement in front of the wall slopes gently down, creating different water depths, and allowing kids of all ages to enjoy the experience.

Once the basin is full the water slowly drains away, till only the stones remain and the whole process starts again.

4. A versatile space.

The Fountain has been designed to be experienced both with and without water.

 The water can be drained and the Fountain used as amphitheatre seating for events in the Square.

 The water can be drained and the Fountain used as amphitheatre seating for events in the Square.

5. A user-friendly space.

Movable folding chairs are scattered around the Square, easily repositioned according to your preference for sun, shade, distance from or closeness to the Fountain. The street blocks are small and the footpaths generous, so it’s easy to get to the Square, in fact it’s almost impossible to avoid it as you’re walking through the district. The quality of construction is excellent and maintenance is obviously a priority, all contributing to the sense that this is a well-loved and highly valued piece of the city.

Now it’s over to you.

What do you think about Jamison Square Fountain? Let me know one thing that appealed to you the most. Of course, if you’ve visited Jamison Square, I’d love you to share your thoughts on the experience.

If you know someone else who might find this interesting, why not share it, and if you liked it ‘heart’ us below. Go on...give it a shot.

Thanks for reading, and see you soon for more garden, landscape and design stories.


Note: Jamison Square Fountain was designed by PWP Landscape Architecture. It is located at 810 NW 11th Avenue, Portland. It Find out more about the history and opening hours at the City of Portland website.

Although we visited on a rather bleak day, lot's of people were still engaging with Jamison Square Fountain. This image gives a glimpse of what it's like on a summer's day - pandemonium! If you're in Portland in summertime, go check it out. Image: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives.

Although we visited on a rather bleak day, lot's of people were still engaging with Jamison Square Fountain. This image gives a glimpse of what it's like on a summer's day - pandemonium! If you're in Portland in summertime, go check it out.
Image: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives.

Design Class: pool fences

Four ways to comply with the regulations without feeling like you're behind bars

I am by nature a heat-averse person. Sweating may be fine for the gym, but sizzling in the sun is waaaaay down on my list of fun things to do.

So with our recent bout of balmy (barmy, more like it) weather, I’ve been feeling extreme sympathy for the builders stuck on site finishing my current project. It must be tormenting to have a fabulous new pool sitting right there and not be able to jump in for a quick cool down.

It’s times like this you start to think longingly about pools. Would you get a long pool so you can swim laps? A deep plunge pool? Something clean and crisp and orthogonal? Tiled or not?

With so much to consider, one thing that is often overlooked is the pool fencing. Mandatory for all pools in Queensland, fencing must comply with strict regulations prescribing the height of barriers and prevention of climbing, amongst other things.

Sadly, meeting these requirements and having a good looking pool area often seem like mutually exclusive goals for many pool owners.

If you have an existing pool the fence has to snake its way through and around the existing paving and garden areas.

If you have limited space you often end up with the pool fence jammed right up beside the pool edge, and no space for lounging or sitting beside the pool, right where you want to be.

And the most cost-effective models of pool fencing available can make you feel like you’re sitting inside a jail cell, rather than in your relaxing outdoor living room.

Luckily, if you’re considering installing a new pool there are four tricks for beating the curse of the jailyard pool fence.

1. The Pool Wall Fence

In this scenario you use the wall of the pool itself as the pool fence. The pool sits above the surrounding ground surface, requiring only a small amount of ‘traditional’ fencing to protect the entry to the pool area.

This can be good if you have limited space, as all the area around the pool remains free and useable, with a minimal fenced entry area that can be screened with a wall, or open with a balustrade.

Plans on the left show a pool with conventional perimeter fencing, and then reduced fencing on the right, achieved by raising the pool out of the ground. Sections on the right show how raising the pool enables the pool wall to be used as the pool fence and a garden feature.

Plans on the left show a pool with conventional perimeter fencing, and then reduced fencing on the right, achieved by raising the pool out of the ground. Sections on the right show how raising the pool enables the pool wall to be used as the pool fence and a garden feature.

You can use the outside of the pool wall as a design element in the garden: paint it, tile it, or leave it raw concrete as we've done at our Garland Garden project.

This approach works really well on sloping sites, where you can fence your outdoor living area, and the leave the rest of the pool emerging from the ground as the slope falls away. This type of pool is also crying out for a ‘horizon edge’, where the water cascades over the exposed walls to a catch trough below.

Once inside the fenced area the paved area flows directly into the pool, with nothing interrupting the view. Water flowing over the horizon edge looks great to people viewing the pool at the lower level.

Once inside the fenced area the paved area flows directly into the pool, with nothing interrupting the view. Water flowing over the horizon edge looks great to people viewing the pool at the lower level.

2. The Ha-Ha

This works really well if you have a bit more space to play around with, but it can be used in smaller spaces too.

A ha-ha is a fancy word to describe a sunken area between two pieces of land (OK…a ditch). It creates a barrier without disrupting views across.

In picturesque English gardens ha-has were used to separate the sheep in their fields from the gentry in their pleasure gardens. In contemporary gardens ha-has can be used to comply with pool fencing requirements without looking out at layers of fences.

Using the ha-ha allows continuous access from the pool terrace to the adjacent garden, and enables uninterrupted views across the garden.

Using the ha-ha allows continuous access from the pool terrace to the adjacent garden, and enables uninterrupted views across the garden.

3. The Fancy Fence

Seems obvious in a way, but sometimes we’re so used to seeing conventional pool fences that we forget they don’t have to be made out of glass, or straight lines of aluminium rods.

What about panels with a decorative perforated pattern that can be backlit at night to sparkle? 

Or consider taking your fence on a journey through the garden, like a piece of wandering sculpture. Then you can enjoy some of the lovely parts of your garden whilst still being able to access the pool. This works really well if you have some space to play with.

4. The Green Fence 

This final option uses the bog-standard aluminium pool fence but hides it in the middle of a planted screen. As the plants grow you’re left with a hedge that you can either trim or leave shaggy, whatever best suits your design, but you’ve still achieved your fencing requirements.

Of course, the diagrams above are intended purely to illustrate how the four ideas work, they are not designs or detailed solutions in themselves. Every garden is different, and your particular circumstances must be carefully understood and considered before adopting any of these ideas, to make sure you get the best result to suit your requirements.

 

Now it’s over to you.

Did this help you consider some of your pool options in a different light? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or share how you’ve re-imagined your pool fencing to create an integrated garden and outdoor living space. If you’re dreaming of a pool, what are your considering?

If you know someone else who might find this interesting, why not share it, and if you liked it ‘heart’ us below.

Thanks for reading and see you soon for more garden, landscape and design stories.

 

Note: Pool fencing regulations vary across local authorities and states. Make sure to check with your local council for their requirements.