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Three finalists announced in Portland State University-run design competition for firefighters memorial


Three finalists have been announced in a Portland State University-administered design competition on behalf of the Portland Fire Bureau, the Portland Firefighters Association David Campbell Memorial Committee for the creation of a new memorial. It will be built on the Eastbank Esplanade beside the northeast corner of the Hawthorne Bridge.

The competition came about when Jeff Schnabel, a member of PSU architecture department faculty was contacted by the firefighters group to assist with a new memorial that would replace the existing one on West Burnside. He suggested (and they accepted) a small competition using the pool of architects that are currently serving or have in the past served as adjunct faculty for PSU.

Finalists, announced in October, are Whelton Architecture, SUM Design Studio and William Tripp. Other participants were Works Partnership, Matt Janssen, Architecture Office, and Nikola Boscanin. Schnabel says the next steps will be review by various city agencies and cost estimates followed by the resubmission of the schemes based on the review comments.

The SUM Design scheme finalist (pictured above) is called “Senses”. It includes a reflecting pool not unlike that planned for the World Trade Center memorial. I say this not to imply it’s a copy, but to emphasize that still water has long made places of sober reflection—pun intended.

William Tripp Architects has offered a scheme (pictured below) in which a series of steps guide visitors down to the river, with individual stone steps marked to commemorate fallen firefighters. This may be the plan that creates the best interface with the Willamette, kind of like the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Whelton Architecture created a cluster of tall light poles (pictured below and at the top of this post), each one representing a fallen Portland firefighter and each of a varying height depending on his or her length of service. This seems like the memorial that would be most striking from a distance. I think a cluster of artful light poles would carve out a sense of place that could in turn help define this portion of the Esplanade.

A final scheme will be selected in November. The selection committee includes Commissioner Randy Leonard, Fire Bureau chief John Klum, Portland Spaces and Portland Monthly editor Randy Gragg, travel agency owner and former mayoral candidate Sho Dozono.Construction of the memorial will be completed by June 2011 in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of Chief David Campbell in a tragic fire just two blocks from the site of the new memorial.

by Brian Libby, 2009

Published with permission of Portland Architecture­­

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