The Martin Luther King, Jr. Gateway and Heritage Markers Project supports the ongoing efforts of residents and business owners to highlight the unique identity of Portland, Oregon’s inner northeast neighborhoods. The design seeks to create a relevant “sense of place” for evolving communities within a fragmented and under-utilized urban fabric.
Knot Studio managed a large multi-disciplinary team to develop designs for MLK Jr Blvd. Situated at the convergence of NE Grand and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., the MLK Gateway and Heritage Markers Project serves as both a “Gateway” to the North-Northeast Portland communities and a site commemorating the life and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The distribution of “Heritage Markers” along NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. as it moves north will identify unique neighborhoods and strengthen the sense of visual continuity along the boulevard.
Rising up behind the scrim, a series of Heritage Markers hold communities’ stories and imagery. Also constructed of weathered steel and lit from within, these twenty-foot markers serve as beacons to on-coming traffic and hint at the plaza behind the scrim. Cut into the steel of each Heritage Marker is one of four themes identified in the community process: Community, Civil Rights, Immigration and Migration, and Commerce and Culture. At pedestrian height, each Heritage Marker supports interpretive panels with community images and stories.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Gateway and Heritage Markers Project re-envisions urban fragments to create civic space that serves as district landmark, interpretive history site, invigorates both the streetscape and pedestrian environment, enhances site safety and provides a place that supports daily civic life. It is the community and design team’s hope that the Gateway and Heritage Markers support an on-going dialogue about what it has meant to reside in the district as well as beginning to frame an understanding of how this area’s communities may continue to move forward together.