Anticipating Gateway Park

This summer the Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) led a design-build project in the Gateway community in Portland, Oregon. In preparation for a recent community event on the site of the future Gateway Park, a team of CPID designers and volunteers erected a giant, white, origami structure; the Chrysalis Pavilion. The pavilion was an abstracted sculptural representation of the encasing shell which constitutes the final stage of the caterpillar’s evolution into a butterfly. This imagery foreshadows the butterfly theme that artist Horatio Law has planned for the park’s public art component. It also elicits the representation of the metamorphosis of the Gateway Park from a vacant turf lot into the beautiful park to come.

CPID is part of the team working on the new Gateway Park project led by PLACE Studio. With a shortened community engagement period during the schematic design phase due to an inherited timeline, the Center looked for other opportunities to engage the community that will be using the park. Traditionally, designers meet with the community to receive input on a design a few times (in a good scenario) before moving into design development. After this period, the community will likely not see the designers again until the project is complete. The CPID posed the question: What role could designers play during the period between schematic design and a project’s completion to contribute to a project’s success?

Gateway is one of Portland’s most underserved neighborhoods, so the investment of the park has the potential to be a much-needed catalyst for change in the area. The success or failure of a public amenity like a park can often depend upon the sense of ownership and investment a community feels in a project. This is where community engagement can play a crucial role.

Using large sheets of folded cardboard supported through the integration of repurposed triangular frames, the pavilion created an embracing passageway for participants to meander through. In addition to the spatial experience of occupying the pavilion, folding origami butterflies engaged community members in a tactile exchange. Trading personally constructed butterflies ordained with drawings and expressions of intended park use for premade butterflies containing plat seeds, participants engaged in a playful activity while motivating a platform for discussion and offering a survey of preferred park activities. The butterflies (with hopes for the park written on the wings) were pinned to the pavilion shell to be shared with the community. The pavilion is the first of a series of projects the CPID hopes to take on in the community between now and the park’s completion. 

The pavilion design was led by CPID Intern Therese Graf and Master of Architecture student Karina Adams. Therese is joining the CPID from the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Barcelona where she is finishing her Masters of International Cooperation in Sustainable Emergency Architecture. Karina will likely be among the inaugural class of students to receive PSU’s Graduate Certificate in Public Interest Design, the first program of its kind in the country, and was taking on this project as part of her certificate coursework.

For more on PLACE Studio: