"Garden of the Awakening Orchid" a.k.a. Classical Chinese Garden
Architect and Garden Design: Kuang
Zhen Yan, Suzhou Institute of Landscape
Architectural Design, He Feng Chun (landscape architect), Robertson
Merryman & Barnes Architects, KPFF Consulting Engineers
"Most cherished in this mundane world is a place without traffic; truly in the midst of the city there can be mountain and forest." Wen Zhengming (1470-1559)
This constitutes the largest Suzhou-style Chinese garden (outside of China) in the world. "Suzhou-style" gardens are a 13th-century urban design with its origins in a merchant class that was trying to bring the country into the city. These gardens are intended to be a refuge for thoughtfulness amid a combination of architectural and natural elements. Design-wise, the pavilions and buildings are intentionally left open to nature.
* Portland and the Chinese city of Suzhou became sister cities in 1988. An ancient city of canals, Suzhou is something of a Chinese Venice, though it's 1,700 years older than its Italian counterpart.
Behind the tile-roofed pavilion, beautiful pond, and carefully framed views of this garden is an interesting melding of yin and yang; a mix between an ancient culture and, well, Portland. Beginning with the corner entrance ("the most graceful urban plaza in the city," according to Oregonian architecture writer Randy Gragg), every aspect of the garden, from every angle, has been meticulously laid out to create the most auspicious creation of spatial harmony. With the exception of the plants, everything here was made in China with manual tools, then imported. The symbolism of each of the garden's parts is sometimes obvious - the mountain in the center - and sometimes more complex - the winding path one can take through the garden.
* City commissioner Mike Lindberg came up with the idea of this garden as a cultural exchange in 1985, when he was in Suzhou.
The buildings in the garden were built in China, then taken apart and sent to Portland, where a team of Chinese artisans reassembled them. Design challenges included linguistic barriers as well as how to construct a culturally accurate garden of interlocked timbers and un-fixed stone that lives up to United States' seismic standards. The solution was to hide the steel reinforcing rods within the timbers and stone.
* During meetings in the mid-1990s to plan the garden, the Chinese contingent wanted no lawyers present. In China, lawyers are thought of as useful only in confrontational situations.
Feng shui, the Chinese concept of energy routing, does not do well with square shapes like a city block. This problem was partially solved by using staggered walls. Some problems were less complicated, but more aggravating. For example, the wood columns were inundated with moisture when they arrived. Upon drying, they cracked, and had to be patched with epoxy.
* Sisterhood is Powerful! Portland's other official sister cities include Ulsan (South Korea), Corinto (Nicaragua), Ashkelon (Israel), Sapparo (Japan), Guadalajara (you'd better already know), and Khabarovsk (Russia).Less Text