When Maryellen Hockensmith bought her home in the hills overlooking Portland, she considered it the chance of a lifetime. The house was a true gem — a midcentury Modern designed by Pietro Belluschi, which appeals particularly to Maryellen’s fiancé, Michael McCulloch, who is an architect. And the surrounding property was a pastoral 40 acres, literally — the former owners were sheep farmers, and the herd grazed just yards from the back door.
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.
Some seek out the Portland Japanese Garden as an oasis, it’s true. For sure, Portland residents slip into the garden’s deep-green embrace to escape earthly cares. And absolutely, the layering of deftly sculpted form and texture — of noble stone juxtaposed against curvaceously sculpted branches — is meant to draw you away from the mundane and material onto a higher plane. But retreat isn’t all this place is about.