Best Hotel Gardens: Hotel Modera

Best Hotel Gardens: Hotel Modera

April 5, 2010
Photo by: Courtesy The Upper House

By the time guests check into Hotel Modera, they’ve already checked out the boutique hotel’s unique courtyard garden. In what used to be the unsightly parking lot of a 1960s motor lodge, Jane Hansen of Lango Hansen Landscape Architects has conjured a chic contemporary oasis in downtown Portland. The focal point is a 64-foot-long, 12-foot-tall living wall planted with drip-irrigated panels of evergreen huckleberry, euonymus, variegated pachysandra, grasses and ferns that were intended as an abstraction of the varied colors and textures of the Pacific Northwest. But make no mistake: This miniature Eden is still an urban garden, as the neat grid of concrete pavers and COR-TEN steel planters filled with Japanese maples attest. A sleek glass-and-steel canopy and slatted meranti fence — designed by Holst Architecture — bisect the courtyard while simultaneously guiding hotel visitors from the street straight into the lobby and differentiating the hotel restaurant from the garden. Guests and neighborhood denizens alike are welcome to drop in and savor the outdoors day or night. They have a choice of several options that seamlessly merge the built world with the landscape: precast concrete benches near the green wall (great for morning coffee), tables on the open-air dining patio (a lunch and dinner favorite) or chairs pulled up to one of three fire troughs aglow with amber-colored glass (a campfire in the city). Several sculptures made out of recycled granite formed into tubular shapes by local artist Michihiro Kosuge serve as a gateway to the year-and-a-half-old garden, promising a tranquil refuge to all who enter.

A Conversation with Jane Hansen

Q: What inspired the design?

A: My husband and partner, Kurt Lango, and I had photos of a trip we took up to the Columbia River Gorge and pixelated them to break them up into organic patterns. It was all about evoking the Northwest feel within an urban site with gridded pavers both on the pavement and up on the wall. We borrowed landscape and put it into a new context. The wall is like a sheer cliff of plant material. We tried to get as much color and texture as we could.

Q: What pleases you most about this garden? 

A: The real thrill is seeing people in a garden when it’s finished. I love seeing people sitting around the fire at night, relaxing and enjoying being outside in the evening.