Saturday, June 15, 2013
There are several varieties of sagebrush across the Northwest; the bush pictured here is along the Columbia River near Vantage, WA, and I think it might be Artemisia rigida, going mostly by its similarity to Google image search results. The flowers are usually more colorful than this, so these may be a bit past their prime, I think. I don't live in sagebrush country myself and it's not a subject I know all that much about. I came across an interesting blog post about sagebrush ecosystems that explains the web of species that depend on sagebrush habitat, and details various threats to this habitat, including agriculture and invasive species.
Incidentally, one of the more charismatic species that relies on sagebrush habitat is the adorable pygmy rabbit. They've come up here once before, in an early blog post from March 2006, in case you were curious about either pygmy rabbits, or early blog posts of mine. I don't really do blog posts of the "Here's a jumble of random stuff with a vague theme" variety anymore. That sort of thing tends to go to Twitter now instead. Where, quite honestly, it has a much wider audience than it would on this humblest of humble blogs here. Twitter's probably the right place for it anyway, given how ephemeral the interwebs can be. More than once I've gone back to look at an old jumble-of-knicknacks-and-whatnots post, only to realize the majority of links are now broken. And then I realize the post in question went up seven years ago (!!!) and it's not a huge surprise for a few web addresses to come and go in that amount of time. And then I realize this blog is actually pretty old in internet years. And then I feel very, very old myself. Sigh.
Sunday, June 09, 2013
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A few photos of Inversion: Plus Minus, the pair of rusty steel structures recently installed at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge. (There's also one, not pictured here, at the east end of the Morrison Bridge as well.) The structures replace several curved ramps between the bridges and Grand Avenue, which I imagine were removed for traffic safety. The structures, we're told, represent ghosts of buildings that were removed when the current interchanges were built, circa 1957. RACC trumpets them in a press release about various bold new public art projects around the Eastside, along with a fairly interesting Q&A with the designers.
And my opinion? I'm not sure I have one yet. I understand what the designers were aiming at here, and I also get that the look of rusty Cor-Ten steel is not universally admired. I can't really blame people for looking at it and quickly deciding it's ugly. On the other hand, it feels like there are some interesting photo possibilities here. I haven't figured them out quite yet, though, so I'll probably have to go back, and slow down and stare at it for a while, thereby confusing passing motorists even further.
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Today's entry in the ongoing bridge project takes us way east to the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge, which carries US 97 over the Columbia River between Biggs Junction, Oregon, and Maryhill, Washington, home of the Maryhill Museum and a famous Stonehenge replica. The bridge has a Bridgehunter page, and a page about it at Columbia River Images explains the history of the bridge and the ferry it replaced.
A Bend Bulletin story about the bridge dedication gives an inkling of what a big deal it was to finally have a bridge at this location. At one point the US portion of the Alaska Highway was going to be designated part of US 97, and the Bulletin story daydreams that this would make all of 97 part of the Pan-American Highway system spanning North and South America. Which I suppose would help the regional economy, with all the through truck traffic on the lucrative Rio de Janeiro to Fairbanks route. Or something.
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Today's adventure takes us to the Oregon Convention Center Plaza, the new park across the street from the convention center itself. This block is owned by the Portland Development Commission, and was originally slated to be a large "headquarters" hotel attached to the convention center. Which we're told we need because all the other competing convention centers have one. I have very little insight into the convention industry, so this may actually be true as far as I know. In any case, the project was killed a few years ago, by the price tag, entrenched local hotel interests, and general public skepticism about the project. So instead they built this outdoor event space, to be used mostly in connection with conventions across the street. An sales brochure for the plaza notes it has adjustable lighting, lots of electrical outlets and water hookups, and other features an ordinary public plaza (like, say, Pioneer Courthouse Square) wouldn't offer.
A key thing to note here is that the Powers That Be haven't completely given up on building a hotel here. Since the plaza may yet turn out to be temporary (like the PDC's Block 47 a few blocks north of here), they appear to have built it on a tight budget, resulting in a fairly generic and cheap-looking space. If you're holding an outdoor convention-style event, I suppose it's actually an upside when your space is sort of a blank slate and you don't have fountains and statues and big trees and so forth to work around. This summer the plaza's also going to host "Plaza Palooza", a free summer concert series. It seems like it would also be ideal for hosting a farmer's market or a food cart pod, though I'm not sure enough people live or work in the vicinity to make either one economically viable here.
When I walked through, though, there were no events going on, and I have to say the plaza doesn't work so well as a general-purpose public park. I realize that's completely missing the point of the place, but it's going to be event-less like this the vast majority of the time, so I think it's fair to comment on it. The design doesn't invite people to walk through, or to linger. There's no signage letting people know it's a park, and then there's nowhere to sit, and if I recall correctly there aren't even any trash bins. No art, no fountains, not much in the way of flowers. It wasn't long at all before I ran out of things to take photos of, and I wandered off to find a more interesting subject. Maybe they just don't want the public to get too attached to the place. I dunno.
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More bridge photos from Cleveland, this time of the Flats Industrial Railroad Bridge. Which, unsurprisingly, carries the Flats Industrial Railroad over the Cuyahoga River. Said railroad is a short-line railroad serving industrial customers (ok, one customer, a flour mill) in the Flats district of Cleveland. All in all, the name is about as self-explanatory as you could hope for.
It's always helpful when my interests sort of overlap with railfans, even though I'm not really one of them myself. They tend to be meticulous and take lots of photos, often from angles that wouldn't have occurred to me. So here's a nice photo of the bridge at RailroadHeritage.org, and several more at RailPictures.net.
A photo at Cleveland Memory points out that this was once known as the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and St. Louis Railroad Bridge Number 4, while one Flickr user points out that this was part of the New York Central system at one point. Another Flickr user has a photoset about the bridge, including a photo of an award plaque from the American Institute of Steel Construction, which gave it an "Annual Award of Merit, Most Beautiful Steel Bridge, Class IV" for the year 1953. If this sort of award sounds vaguely familiar (and it probably doesn't), the Portland area's John McLoughlin Bridge, on the Clackamas River, won a similar award in 1933, but "Class C" instead of "Class IV", and no, I don't know what the difference is there. Someone else has a large photoset with great photos of the Flats area, including a few of this bridge.
This installment in obscure stuff around town takes us to the Multnomah County offices at SE Hawthorne & Grand Avenue. Flanking the main entrance are a pair of ornate bronze panels, the left one depicting a rural landscape, the right showing urban scenes. This is Connections, a 2005 piece by the Northwest sculptor Wayne Chabre. His description of it:
The Multnomah Building houses the business offices of Multnomah County, the most populous county in Oregon. These two panels frame the main entry, and represent the urban and rural aspects of the county. Bridges, roads and water images are metaphors for the County’s many governmental functions. Bridges are the central design element on the urban panel; they allow a city divided by a major river to function as a cohesive whole, as the County “bridges” many diverse communities, facilitating cooperative action and successful societal functioning.
In the rural panel, the arterial (County) roads converge from the periphery as capillaries in the circulatory system, supporting urban life by the work of the agricultural base and the dramatic beauty of the Columbia Gorge scenic preserve. These panels also suggest Portland’s connection to the Pacific Rim with the oblique reference to the Asian scroll.
The Portland Public Art blog liked it, which is rare praise indeed.
Here's a new weathervane sculpture, titled Chimney Swift, on Portland State's brand new University Pointe student housing tower, which opened last fall to mixed reviews. Unlike a lot of recent posts here, I didn't find this one on a map first; I was just walking along minding my own business when I noticed the sign, which helpfully points out that the piece itself us up on the roof of the building. It turns out to be another work by Keith Jellum, the same guy behind Electronic Poet (overhead at the Galleria MAX stop), Transcendence (the salmon crashing through a building near the South Park Blocks), and Portal (the hammer arch on SW 1st near the Ross Island Bridge). Portal sits in front of the offices of the same construction company that built University Pointe and donated Chimney Swift. And with that, well, that's all I know about Chimney Swift.
Chimney swifts are another matter; the local variety is the Vaux's Swift, best known in the Portland for colonizing the chimney at Chapman School, in NW Portland, each fall. This draws crowds of human spectators, and often a few hungry hawks. I've gone to watch a few times but I've never brought a camera along, believe it or not. YouTube's full of Chapman School swift videos, though.