Postcards from the Edge

Portland Edge: the left side of image is inside the urban growth boundary

“The urban growth boundary can be viewed, experienced, intellectualized, conceptualized, and perceived as a finite measurable line, a known quantity that is highly specific.  Likewise, the urban growth boundary can be thought of as a less tangible, more abstract place that partially determines how we live and how closely we live together…There are numerous ways to examine the UGB: analytically, metaphorically, abstractly, intellectually, politically” -Orlo  (quoted in “Imagining Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary” by Carl Abbott and Joy Margheim).

The Google images above and below are views that reveal the unique qualities of Portland’s urban growth boundary (previously blogged here and here).  The political line creates a shifting bordered landscape of assumed dichotomies and contrasts between urban and rural.  The planning boundary also seems to create a unique form of condensed suburbia via the intentional containment of sprawl.

UGB along the Clackamas River

Attempting to take a step away from the abstractions and politics  that surround the UGB, I’ve made excursions to the periphery of the city over the last year to see what its really like out there.  Taking a UGB map along with me I tried to decode exactly where the invisible line is (Writer David Oats did a more thorough, circular version of this, well documented in City Limits).

Sometimes the edge is obvious and sometimes its not.  Like any other suburbia, the fringe landscape is dominated by open space and odd juxtapositions of programs.  Sometimes its brutally ugly.  Often its banal and repetitious, and sometimes unique and astonishing.

The following snap shots were made on these journeys, some of them while driving a vehicle at the same time.  All images are taken either on or very near the current UGB boundary.

Western Edge, near Cornelius.  According to my map, this land was recently brought inside the UGB and is currently zoned industrial.

I  tried to avoid falling into suburbia cliches, but this view…..”little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky…..”

Bizarre mixed-use typology

active farmland


(local resident currently inside the UGB, near Sherwood)

….the (abrupt) edge of the UGB

channelized stream and floodplain

migrating geese (thousands)

The line

The ever advancing new

One comment

  1. This is really cool. After I saw a photograph showing compact, uniform suburban housing on one side of the street, and a field of golden grass on the other, I became instantly enthralled with the striking image. I haven’t found much about the physical manifestations of the boundary, so this post makes me happy. Well done

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