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An Oregon University legend, and Olympic long distance runner, Steve Prefontain was a beloved figure during the running boom of the 1970’s, inspiring many young athletes to start racing. His grit and determination led the star to set U.S. track records at every distance from 2,000 to 10,000 meters and qualify for the U.S Olympic team. After competing in the 1972 Munich Olympics and just missing out on the podium (placing 4th in the 5,000 meter), he was widely seen as the future of U.S competitive racing, and garnered international respect.

Despite what many thought was a guaranteed return to the Olympic team four years later, his life was tragically cut short in 1975, at the age of 24. He was found underneath his flipped car atop a hill near Eugene, Oregon.

This roadside where he crashed, now deemed “Pre’s Rock,” has transformed into a shrine in memory of Prefontaine, with many athletes making a pilgrimage to the site to pay respects to the life of the young runner. Recognizing the importance of the site, the city of Eugene commissioned Portland based firm SERA Architects to host a design competition to officially memorialize him with a built installation.   

Forged from a runners form, Momentum is not static; it necessitates the experience of rhythmic movement while considering the life of Steve Prefontaine.

Pillars, which act as the focal point of this memorial, begin at a low angle and gradually rise, mimicking the form of a runner dashing off the starting blocks toward a long stretch of track. These series of narrow structures form a procession toward Skyline Boulevard, steadily turning as they fade in the direction of Hayward Field where Prefontaine used to race, while gently watching over Pre’s Rock.

form creation

The inner side of each pillar is reflective, meant to capture the motion of walking or running, frozen for a moment on the surface of the structure.  At night, the memorial is bathed in a series of soft lights emanating from the upper half of each pillar, reminiscent of the natural rhythm created by lines on a track field.

  moments of reflection

rhythm of motion

When viewed from afar, one sees the pillars rising above the top of the trees, and it is as if Pre is accelerating toward Hayward Field, racing once again. 

overhead view of full memorial

memorial competition board