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Portland Art Museum (Brian Libby)

 

BY BRIAN LIBBY

A few months ago, I was approached by nonprofit Portland radio station XRAY.fm about starting a new podcast. Debuting today is the result: the first in a 12-episode season of In Search of Portland.

At first, I was resistant to the idea, because I'm pretty busy as it is with my existing job: freelance journalism, this blog, and a book manuscript I'd already been working on for over a year that I wanted to see through. But on the other hand, I thought back to when I was a teenager, and how I used to spend hours in my room recording pretend radio shows or mix tapes in my room with a dual-cassette player: how I'd loved hamming it up as a DJ between songs. I thought of the fun I'd had in years past interviewing guests live with an audience. And then I thought of my not-quite-finished book manuscript, and how its topic—not completely different from the articles I write, but with a slightly tweaked focus—could make for a good podcast. Then I even started to think about how a lot of the interviews I'd already done for my book—or, better yet, the interviews I wanted to do—could make the podcast both a new way of sharing some of that content and a way of gaining a lot more.

The book I'd been working on had a working title of In Search of Portland, because I'd been inspired by a travel book from the 1950s called In Search of London, in which a writer walked around his own city, a bit like a tourguide but with more of a mix of historical and personal, talking about a mix of architecture and history: cultural history, political history, and so on. I realized what I wanted to do in my own book was to plan out a series of walks that I could take in the book that would bring me to a blend of great architecture and places with stories and interesting, talented people associated with them. I love cities in part for their mix of buildings from all different eras, and in part for the layers of history that exist.

Often Portland's newest buildings are interesting, especially when it's a contemporary landmark like, say, the Portland Japanese Garden's Cultural Crossing. But new buildings haven't had the chance to grow into themselves, through different eras, or to stand the test of time. That means the In Search of Portland manuscript has more often devoted pages to old buildings: the work of architects like Pietro Belluschi, A.E. Doyle, and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, or to public spaces like the Keller Fountain and Pioneer Courthouse Square, or — even better — more modest structures where great creative minds have spent time.

For the In Search of Portland podcast, the idea is to devote each episode to one building, and then look at it from different perspectives: past and present, architecture and occupant, and so on. For the debut episode, which goes live today, we discuss the Portland Art Museum. First is an interview with architect Anthony Belluschi about his legendary father, Pietro, who designed the museum, about what the commission meant to his career. After all, when Pietro Belluschi was hired to design the museum, it was the beginning of the Great Depression and his firm had shrunk to a small handful of employees. Yet after the Portland Art Museum, Belluschi would go on to win the American Institute of Architects' Gold Medal, the profession's highest honor, for designing a host of great modernist buildings across the United States. But what about the museum today? The second interview is with Grace Kook-Anderson, who curates Northwest art for the museum—including the superb recent regional survey that ran earlier this spring, "The Map Is Not The Territory"—about curating for Belluschi's museum and what local art means today.

The 12-episode season, which is sponsored by Mutual Materials, will continue in one week (on July 29) with a look at Lincoln Hall at Portland State University. The building was completed in 1911 and was originally known as Lincoln High School, which it remained until 1953 when PSU took possession. In 2012 it was renovated into a performance hall from a design by Bora Architects. I like that today, as seen from Broadway, it's a hybrid of new and old architecture. But for the purposes of the podcast episode on Lincoln Hall, I was most interested in the fact that during those 42 years as Lincoln High, and particular from the 1920s-40s, the school saw three of its students achieve international notoriety. There was Mark Rothko, a towering giant of 20th century American art and the Abstract Expressionist movement. There was Mel Blanc, the voice of all Looney Tunes cartoons. And there was Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder.

The rest of the season is similarly a mix of familiar and perhaps forgotten buildings and pairs of interviews. In the third episode, we talk about the Portland Building: its original design competition, place in history and current renovation with architect Carla Weinheimer of DLR Group, but also with jazz author Robert Dietsche, about the jazz club that once existed on the Portland Building site: McElroy's Spanish Ballroom, where greats like John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway once performed. In the fourth episode we look at a more recent project, the Mercy Corps headquarters in Old Town, including discussions with architect Thomas Keltner of Hacker and Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer.

In later episodes, we delve into the rich history of the First Regiment Armory Annex while exploring its pioneering renovation (first LEED Platinum-rated building on the National Register) while also looking forward to Portland Center Stage's 2019-2020 season; we look at the role played by the former Saint Francis Hotel in Gus Van Sant's award-winning Drugstore Cowboy while also learning about the role that residence hotel play in the city's affordable housing matrix; we discuss Portland poet Hazel Hall, who has been called the Emily Dickinson of the West, and the designers living there today with clients including the biggest brands in fashion; and we discuss the Wieden + Kennedy headquarters, both what it meant for architect Brad Cloepfil, but also how the ad agency itself has evolved over time.

I normally would find it a bit undignified to write blog posts functioning as PR for my other projects, but if you read this blog regularly, I think there's a good chance this podcast will be of interest. I have found over the past 20 years that I tend to do my best work when it's something I'm passionate about, and have spent a lot of time thinking about, and have had fun putting together. Both in working on the manuscript and its sister podcast, it's felt re-invigorating to zero in on the best buildings and the richest story that Portland's urban fabric has to offer, instead of what journalism focuses on: whatever happens to have finished construction recently.

In this first season, we focus almost exclusively on buildings downtown, in Old Town and the Pearl District, simply because that was how I eventually had to restrict myself with the book manuscript. I had found I was writing so many pages that a city-wide book wasn't going to be possible. But I wrote a whole Southeast chapter before I figured that out, so I'm looking to crossing the Willamette late this season and more extensively next season. Same goes for North and Northeast Portland.

Thanks very much to Jefferson Smith and XRAY, as well as to my producers—Amalia Boyles and Ed Curtiss—for convincing me to do the show. And should you choose to listen, you should be able to get In Search of Portland from wherever you get your podcasts, or at xraypod.com, where the show can also be streamed.

 

 

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Schnitzer Center, Pacific NW College of Art (Wikimedia Commons)

 

BY BRIAN LIBBY

NW Broadway Corridor Tour
This Architectural Heritage Center walking tour offers an in-depth look into some of Portland’s most histoiric public and private buildings located near and along NW Broadway. In addition to the architectural details, attendees will also learn about the history of the buildings and the architects who designed them. This tour provides the opportunity to step inside Union Station and two former federal buildings – the former 511 Broadway federal building that now houses the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the historic US Custom House that is now a WeWork shared office. Along the way one will see several styles of architecture, ranging from the Romanesque to the International – and all are within a few short blocks. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Tuesday, July 16. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Summer Story Hour: Actionable Resilience
How do we approach sustainability as it relates to our transportation, our energy usage, or the preservation of our historic roots? As part of the Summer Story Hour from Design Museum Portland, this edition, titled Actionable Resilience, features three speakers: Portland Center Stage community programs manager Jonas Angelet, Green Hammer design director Erica Dunn, and B-Lone founder Franklin Jones. Vestas, 1417 NW Everett Street. 6PM Wednesday, July 17. $20 (free for Design Museum Portland members).

The Architecture Lobby Portland — Chapter Meeting
This chapter meeting for the newly established Portland chapter of national organization The Architecture Lobby will feature updates and discussion on ongoing national projects and events, including the upcoming member congress in August in Los Angeles. Local chapter projects will be discussed, as well as an open group conversation about member experiences with architecture work. Time permitting, there will be a continuation of last month's discussion of about P.E. Moskowitz's book How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood. All are welcome. Ankeny Tap and Table, 2724 SE Ankeny Street. 6PM Wednesday, July 17. Free.

URM Seismic Resilience Symposium
Unreinforced masonry (or URM) buildings present a challenge for earthquake-prone communities. There are over 1,650 URM buildings in Portland and millions around the world. These structures are important historic, architectural, cultural, and economic landmarks, but their vulnerability to earthquakes imperils these buildings and the people in them. The URM Seismic Resilience Symposium is a three-day event for architects, engineers, owners, property managers, and anyone that might deal with URM buildings. The symposium will include two days of lectures focusing on topics and concerns related to URM buildings, including: construction and seismic engineering technology options, building codes and historic preservation requirements, public policy, finance, and resilience. The symposium is organized in a partnership between the International Masonry Institute, the Oregon chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Structural Engineering Association of Oregon, American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Association of Preservation Technology Northwest. Portland State University, Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue. Begins 7:30AM Thursday, July 18. $425 ($300 for emerging professionals, $175 for students).

Pearl District Walking Tour - A Century of Preservation and Change
Over the last 20 years, the Pearl District has been transformed from industrial enclave and rail yards into one of Portland’s most popular residential, cultural and retail districts. A century ago, the area went through a similar transformation, from a working class housing area at the edge of a marsh to the city’s biggest industrial and warehousing area. Many of Portland’s best known architects of the period designed buildings for important local and national companies. Most of these buildings remain, with their exteriors intact, and new uses inside. But as the recent demolition of the Pacific Northwest College of Art's Feldman Building (a renovated old warehouse) reminds us, the current wave of development could threaten more historic buildings. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 6PM Thursday, July 18. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Historic Downtown Beaverton Walking Tour
As the inter-urban rail network expanded into hills and fields west of the city of Portland in the early 20th century, many small rural enclaves became bustling suburbs that grew up around the rail stops. The automobile era has tended to erase much of the evidence of these streetcar era suburbs. Yet Beaverton still retains a core intersection of the early 20th century streetscape. This Positively Portland Walking Tour will start at the contemporary Beaverton Library and explore the buildings that defined the city of Beaverton nearly 100 years ago. Tour begins at Ava Roasteria, 4655 SW Hall Boulevard, Beaverton. 10AM Friday, July 19. $15.

Historic Sellwood Walking Tour (Part One)
Before it was brought within Portland city limits in 1893, Sellwood was an independent, incorporated town. This Architectural Heritage Center tour takes you through a section of the original Sellwood tract where you’ll see a variety of houses and commercial buildings, some dating back to the town’s earliest days. Tour meets at Oaks Pioneer Church, 455 SE Spokane Street. 10AM Saturday, July 20. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Historic Hollywood District Walking Tour
Starting at the iconic Hollywood Theatre, this Positively Portland walking tour will head northeast along Sandy Boulevard, exploring the built environment on this well-known diagonal arterial. Most of the commercial buildings reflect the eclectic stylistic palette of architects and builders of the period between World War I and World War II in Portland. Host Eric Wheeler will discuss how the automobile transformed this neighborhood into a place where mid-century Portland teens went dragging the gut and city residents came to experience food from a variety of ethnic cultures. The tour will also include the residential area north of Hollywood, including for fine examples of Craftsman, Period Revival and even some modern residences. Tour begins at Hollywood Theatre, 4100 NE Sandy Boulevard. 10AM Saturday, July 20. $15.

Building Reuse: A Conversation with Kathryn Rogers Merlino
The impact of the demolition and removal of an older building can greatly diminish the advantages of adding green technologies to new construction. Reusing existing buildings can be challenging to accomplish, but changing the way we think about environmentally conscious architecture has the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions. In this talk from the City Club of Portland, Kathryn Rogers Merlino makes an impassioned case that truly sustainable design requires reusing and reimagining existing buildings. An associate professor of architecture and an adjunct associate professor in the department of landscape architecture at the University of Washington, Rogers Merlino teaches courses on architectural history, theories of preservation and building reuse, vernacular architecture as well as graduate and undergraduate design studios. Her current research argues that the reuse of existing buildings – both everyday is a critical part of our sustainable future. Rogers Merlino will be preceded by a presentation from Ren DeCherney, director of sustainability at krowdsourced, a digital and physical materials library. Architectural Heritage Center, 701 SE Grand Avenue. 2PM Saturday, July 20. Free.

Old Town Walking Tour
The commercial district near the Skidmore Fountain and the oldest standing buildings in downtown comprise this tour of Portland’s only National Landmark Historic District. Visitors on this Architectural Heritage Center tour will see the work of Portland’s earliest architects, learning how cast iron played a central role in their designs and how the city developed so close to the river. Along the way, visitors will also learn about some beautiful but long-lost buildings while also seeing great examples of historic preservation. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Tuesday, July 23. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Solar Drinks: Exploring Community Solar
Solar Oregon Board Member Bridget Callahan will discuss the upcoming community solar program, launched this year, and its potential to create more clean energy in Oregon. This meeting of Solar Oregon be discussing what community solar will look like, when it will be coming, some of the forms it could take and how one can get involved. The Hive Taphouse, 13851 Beavercreek Road, Oregon Cityy. 6PM Wednesday, July 24. Free.

A Welcoming Space for all Abilities
This is the first in a new three-part series of Architectural Foundation of Oregon events highlighting the positive social impact of architecture in the community. What are the latest innovations in designing for individuals with varied abilities? Find out at Seven Corners Collaborative on Division Street in Southeast Portland, recently designed by Waterleaf Architecture for Community Vision and five nonprofit partners. It fosters innovation and collaboration while providing support and services for individuals with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities. Join Joe Wykowski from Community Vision and Bill Bailey from Waterleaf on the Seven Corners Collaborative roof deck discuss their collaboration on this building. Seven Corners Collaborative, 2475 SE Ladd Avenue. 5:30PM Thursday, July 25. $25.

Broadway and Mid-Town Tour
Beginning in the 1890s, the area downtown between Southwest Broadway and Ninth Avenue underwent a dramatic change from a residential neighborhood on the edge of town to a bustling commercial and cultural district. This Architectural Heritage Center tour takes a look at what are today some of the most well recognized and architecturally significant buildings in the city. Attendees will see the work of some of the premier Portland architects of the early 20th century, including A. E. Doyle, John V. Bennes and Morris Whitehouse, while also hearing stories about the city’s first public library and one-time park blocks that were lost to development. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 6PM Thursday, July 25. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Piedmont Neighborhood Walking Tour
In addition to the well-known neighborhoods of Irvington, Ladd's Addition and Laurelhurst, Portland is also home to the lesser known but architecturally rich neighborhoods of Piedmont and Walnut Park. These areas contain many fine examples of familiar styles such as Queen Anne and Arts & Crafts but also the less frequently seen forms of Byzantine, Jacobean and Prairie style. Along the way during this Architectural Heritage Center tour, attendees will see the work of architects like Joseph Jacobberger, whose North Portland Branch Library has stood as a neighborhood landmark for more than a century. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Saturday, July 27. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Downtown Fraternal Lodges & Secret Societies Tour
Fraternal lodges, also known as secret societies, played an important social role in early 20th century Portland. These organizations not only provided an active social outlet in the pre-electronic age, but also offered a financial safety net in the days before government programs fulfilled that need. They also provided a place to create and maintain business relationships. This Architectural Heritage Center tour, includes six architecturally significant and historic fraternal lodge buildings, including the former Elks and Masonic temples, as well as the Scottish Rite Center. Tour meetup location to be announced. 10AM Tuesday, July 30. $25 ($15 for AHC members).

 

 

 

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The under-construction Pioneer Lavada Jones project (Brian Libby)

 

BY BRIAN LIBBY

Over the past decade-plus, perhaps the most interesting and iconoclastic Portland development firm I've followed has been Guerrilla Development. Whether it's the Fair-Haired Dumbbell, that eye-catching office building at MLK and Burnside that's covered in a colorful mural, or a succession of retail and mixed-use projects along Sandy Boulevard, or some innovative approaches to affordable micro-housing, this is that rare developer that treats buildings like artful experiments.

Of course in development, you have to turn a profit of some sort, or otherwise there may not be a next project. Yet Guerrilla won't build luxury condos or populate their storefronts with ubiquitous chains to make a buck.

Founded by Kevin Cavenaugh, who was trained as an architect (I wrote about his work most recently in an Oregon Business magazine profile a couple years ago) and seems to retain a kind of punk-rock spirit or value system from his early days as a musician (in other words: don't sell out), Guerrilla has been a creative enough developer that it became possible to forget that there were still architecture firms carrying out their visions. Sometimes that partner has been FFA Architecture, where Cavenaugh worked as a designer before launching Guerrilla. But often it has been Brett Schulz Architect, whose namesake founder used to work with Cavenaugh at FFA.

Recently I happily accepted an invitation from Ben Carr, a project architect at Schulz's firm, to talk visit his office and talk about its evolution with and without Guerrilla, with a visit to the firm's under-construction project with them, Pioneer Lavada Jones, a renovation of a 1950s auto garage building that includes the creation of a new outdoor courtyard in the middle.

 


New New Crusher Court (Brian Libby)

 

The two companies share two sides of an office space within one of their previous projects together, New New Crusher Court, one of a string of buildings along NE Sandy Boulevard between 20th and 30th Avenues that they have renovated into creative office and retail spaces from the bones of old car dealerships and repair shops. Like Pioneer Lavada Jones, the outdoor space it carves out from heretofore indoor warehouse space is what the project is all about.

"We enjoy a close relationship with Guerilla," Carr says. "We both have this feeling that we want to build the city that we want to live in. More often than not, Kevin will come to us with a napkin sketch and say, ‘This is the idea. How do we build it? How do we get the city to approve it? How do we navigate the seismic upgrade requirements?’ We become specialists in both new construction and adaptive re-use to turn those napkin sketches into reality. There’s so many design decisions that get made during that process. And it’s really a collaboration. Really all these buildings, as we take them through structural engineering and city permitting, they evolve naturally. One of the most fun parts of the job is seeing how the project grows on its own. And being in the same building, having that open work flow is essential, to pop over with sketch ideas. It’s a symbiotic relationship."

Although I was there to spotlight Brett Schulz Architect — the firm, that is, as opposed to architect Brett Schulz — the fact that Carr was speaking for the firm instead of Schulz made for a coincidence, because Kevin Cavenaugh has begun to do the same thing at Guerrilla: to step back as the public face of the company and empower younger team members to do their thing and gain leadership.



Brett Schulz, Ben Carr and Shea Gilligan (Brett Schulz Architect PC)

"Empowerment is the right word," says Carr, who earned architecture degrees from Columbia University and the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute before coming to Portland. "Like Kevin, Brett realizes that this is a collaborative process and not the result of any one person's efforts or ideas. Brett's been a valuable mentor as an architect and as the owner of a small business, and It's been an amazing place to grow as a professional. He has given my colleague Shea Gilligan I the opportunities to work and learn about all aspects of the process beyond architectural design, from client relations to billing to financial management to marketing and client outreach, which has been very successful for the company and beneficial for Shea and I as we learn how to run a firm."

As it happens, Carr and I used to live within a few blocks of each other in New York City, and we got talking about a building there, in which he grew up, that may have foreshadowed the kind of adaptive-reuse narrative his career has since taken. While was a student at NYU in Greenwich Village (and while Schulz was studying design at New York's Pratt Institute, for that matter), Carr was a child living in an apartment at Westbeth, a three-building complex of artists' housing in the West Village that was renovated from portions of the old Bell Laboratories complex, a 13-building campus that in its oldest portions dates to 1868.

In the 1960s, portions were renovated into one of the first examples of adaptive reuse of industrial buildings for artistic and residential use in the United States. Westbeth's conversion was one of the first projects by Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect Richard Meier. "It was like a giant ship," Carr recalled, "with parts from the 1860s and newer portions because it got added on to sequentially. Understanding that spatially as a concept was really fascinating."

 


Bell Laboratories/Westbeth Artist Housing (Westbeth)

 

Our conversation continued as we visited Pioneer Lavada Jones, which is under construction but nearing completion. You'd never know from Sandy Boulevard the interesting and welcoming little courtyard that awaits, with the building's bowstring trusses extending across the open air from inside to outside and back again. "You have a little bit of protection from Sandy. It’s a pretty high-traffic road. There’s an idea of a space that’s open to the public but can be discovered." The courtyard walls are also clad with simple plywood, a look I enjoyed. It's a humble material but the combined effect is one of clarity and texture.

"It’s light and air for the tenants," the architect says of the Lavada courtyard. "These spaces would have been land locked and you’d never be able to lease it. You’re losing square footage so it’s counter intuitive from a development standpoint. But you’re improving the quality of the rest of the square footage. We’ve done a lot of projects where you’re not maximizing the density. But you can create a higher quality of space that in theory won’t lead to as much turnover. You also interact with other tenants a lot more."

 


Pioneer Lavada Jones rendering (Brett Schulz Architect), The Zipper (Guerrilla Development)

 

As we walked along this stretch of Sandy Boulevard, where the former Pepsi bottling plant is set to be redeveloped ("You've no longer got the right one, Baby, uh-huh!"), I was reminded of the number of Schulz-designed projects for Guerrilla are here, with potentially more in the works. For a long time it was a sleepy light-industrial area with several car dealerships and related businesses as well as the soft drinks. In more recent years, with small and micro-sized restaurants percolating up and down the street with projects like The Zipper and (nearby on Glisan) The Ocean, this area has become a culinary destination.

"We both have this feeling that we want to build the city that we want to live in," Carr says of his firm and Guerrilla. "More often than not, Kevin will come to us with a napkin sketch and say, ‘This is the idea. How do we build it? How do we get the city to approve it? How do we navigate the seismic upgrade requirements?’ We become specialists in both new construction and adaptive re-use to turn those napkin sketches into reality. There’s so many design decisions that get made during that process. And it’s really a collaboration. Really all these buildings, as we take them through structural engineering and city permitting, they evolve naturally. One of the most fun parts of the job is seeing how the project grows on its own. And being in the same building, having that open work flow is essential, to pop over with sketch ideas. It’s a symbiotic relationship."

Some emails I exchanged with people at Guerrilla confirmed that Schulz's firm is also particularly good at the unsexy but necessary series of steps that have to happen to make these sometimes unconventional projects work — and, just as importantly, to get them approved by the city despite being a stretch of what codes allow or requiring a re-interpretation.

Overcoming those kinds of hurdles was certainly part of the process for Tree Farm, one of the developer-architect team's most talked-about upcoming projects and currently under construction in the Central Eastside. It's going to have 55 fairly mature trees growing in large planters on the outside of the building.

"It's a completely unique design exercise, obviously because of the trees," Carr says. "And there are so many constraints: the Hawthorne Bridge, power lines. There’s a huge pipe that goes under the site for the stormwater management sewer pipe. That impacted our foundations. Multnomah County has jurisdiction and had a say about tree planters cantilevering over the building. And this is the only time we’ve worked with an arborist and an irrigation specialist, who helped us pick trees that would thrive in both shade and full exposure."

 


Renderings of the upcoming Tree Farm (Brett Schulz Architect PC)

 

The trees are actually strawberry trees and the architect says will aid bird habitat while perhaps offsetting a tiny amount of carbon from all the cars going by on the Hawthorne Bridge's long elevated entry ramp. But I was also interested in Carr's description of what the trees do experientially.

"This is taking that concept of having trees being a unique silhouette and having them be a unique part of the experience of the  building. You’ll be able to look from inside out over the canopy below, a unique experience from the tenant side," he says. "In Portland, if you look east towards Mt. Tabor or west to the hills, you have a serrated skyline of hilltops. This is a way to make a building that’s very Portland: the importance of timber here, and the landscape. In other buildings you don’t get that serrated tree skyline."

Tree Farm is a natural successor to the Fair-Haired Dumbbell (which FFA Architecture & Interiors oversaw for Guerrilla), in that they are similarly sized and both will feature facades given over entirely to an artist-designed mural. It's also, especially with the addition of the oversized trees, another conversation piece that is likely to divide opinion. Carr is fine with that.

"Creating a building that establishes that dialogue is already a success," he explains. "Living in a dense city is about being exposed to the other, and that makes us all better people: seeing a building that you may not like, but other people do like: it opens up your mind. You can learn a lot from the debate. And it’s better than everything being a generic status quo and copying what we know is a known model and what is safe. That’s why I love talking about it. When the Dumbbell was completed I’d hear people on the street talking about it. That’s a beautiful thing. It’s people talking about their environment and not looking at their phones. I think that’s part of the whole point of living in the city."

The Dumbbell and Tree Farm, with their artist-painted facades, are also part of a larger phenomenon: the proliferation of murals since the city relaxed its code to allow them.

The new Tree Farm murals will "fit into a conversation of street art and this idea of a blank wall being an opportunity. By doing that we’re diminishing the chance of the building being tagged, because there is a certain amount of regard within the community of graffiti artists for a conditioned piece. A percent of all Guerilla projects goes to art, and in this case it’s the façade. I think it’s going to be a great play on street art that’s already all over the Central Eastside."

 


Han Oak (Grace Rivera for Dwell), Nomad (Dina Avila)

 

With and without Guerrilla Development, Brett Schulz Architect has also been responsible for a host of cool restaurant spaces. Of these, the most noteworthy may be Han Oak, not only because it and chef Peter Cho have become one of the most talked-about culinary forces in Portland but also because Han Oak is something fairly unique: a live-work restaurant. Named one of the "10 Best-Designed Places to Eat and Drink in Portland" by Dwell, It fuses residential loft within The Ocean, Schulz and Guerrilla's micro-restaurant complex from 2012. Schulz's firm has also designed eye-catching dining spaces like Nomad and the new Besaw's.

The firm has several other projects—many of them not involving Guerrilla—in the works. At SE Second and Main in the Central Eastside, the firm is renovating a former dry-dock company's warehouse into office spaces. They're doing two market-rate apartment projects in Arbor Lodge, another off N Dekum Street, and an adaptive re-use of a former pickle factory on Columbia Boulevard.

So much attention in building-industry media is given to the big new-construction projects: the corporate hotels, the class-A office towers, the big condo and apartment towers. But so often it's adaptive re-use projects and unconventional works of entrepreneurial-architectural creativity that are the most delightful. That's what this firm is all about.

 

 

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Willamette River and former West Linn Paper Company site (Brian Libby)

 

BY BRIAN LIBBY

South Park Blocks Walking Tour
This eleven-block portion of the downtown area was first platted and donated to the City of Portland in 1852, transforming a fire break parcel into the most desirable residential area of its day, complete with schools, playgrounds, stately homes and places of worship. On this Architectural Heritage Center tour one can take a stroll through the groves of elms and recount some of the stories they would love to tell about the area’s history and architecture. The South Park Blocks stand alone as a place of revitalization, refreshment and cultural allure. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Tuesday, July 2. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Historic Willamette Walking Tour
The historic town Willamette—now comprising a portion of West Linn—was established in 1893 upriver from Oregon City on the west side of the Willamette River. Over the next decade, Willamette became home to hundreds of power plant and mill workers and their families, as industry took over the land surrounding Willamette Falls (only now being returned to public use some 125 years later). The need for safe drinking water from the river led to annexation by West Linn in 1916. Today, as evidenced on this Positively Portland walking tour, the historic core of old Willamette is now a compact 16 block National Register residential historic district that features a vibrant concentration of shops, restaurants and other services. Tour begins at Lark Cafe, 1980 Willamette Falls Drive, West Linn. 10AM Friday, July 5. $15.

Portland Architecture on the World Stage Walking Tour
In the decades before Michael Grave’s Portland Building grabbed global headlines, local modernist pioneers John Yeon and Pietro Belluschi brought fame to the city with architectural designs of their own. They were soon followed by big name firms such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as well as a few “starchitects” of their time, namely Charles Luckman (whose firm designed the Wells Fargo Center) and Hugh Stubbins (designer of the PacWest Center). Added to this mix was the exceptional work of landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and a plethora of local firms including ZGF.This tour takes a look at the work of these and other architects that have left their mark on downtown over the past several decades. While gaining insight into Portland’s architectural recent past and near future, attendees on this Architectural Heritage Center tour will also learn about the impacts of urban renewal as well as concerns over pedestrian access and sustainability. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Saturday, July 6. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Foster/Holgate Neighborhood Tour — Then and Now
The intersection of Foster Road and Holgate Boulevard in Southeast Portland has a history that spans the early settlement days to the Streetcar Era and Mid-century automobile-centric period of Portland history. Today there are signs of neighborhood revitalization in the commercial and residential sectors of this neighborhood also known as Mt Scott/Arleta. Join us for a leisurely stroll and exploration of this transitional Southeast Portland neighborhood. Recently, the Portland Bureau of Transportation's Foster Transportation and Streetscape plan has become a flashpoint of controversy in the neighborhood. Tour begins at Pieper Cafe, 6504 SE Foster Road. 10AM Saturday, July 6. $15.

West End Walking Tour
In recent years, the area bounded by West Burnside Street, 10th Avenue, and I-405 has been revitalized as a popular shopping, dining, and night spot. In many ways the area once again reflects its early 20th century development with several hotels of varying sizes and a variety of commercial buildings. This Architectural Heritage Center tour examines a portion of the West End filled with buildings ranging from First Presbyterian Church to the Sentinel Hotel. Along the way, one will learn the fascinating social and architectural significance of the neighborhood, while seeing firsthand, the work of important Portland architects, including William C. Knighton, A. E. Doyle, and several others. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Tuesday, July 9. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

IIDA Oregon 2019 Annual Celebration
Join the Oregon chapter of the International Interior Design Association at its annual celebration. Titled ‘Grow,’ the evening will start with a state-of-the-chapter address, offering a review of the past year and a look ahead at forthcoming initiatives. Enjoy drinks and food from local producers, and enter collection of raffles with prizes provided by IIDA vendor partners. The Redd on Salmon, 831 SW Salmon Street. 5PM Thursday, July 11. $70 ($50 for IIDA members, $40 for non-member students, $30 for member students and board members).

Downtown Portland Moves West Tour
After repeated Willamette River flooding in the late 19th century, Portland's central business district began to move west of Second Avenue, embarking on an era of building construction that utilized popular new materials, often coupled with classical design motifs. The results included some of the city's first tall buildings and by the 1910s, Fifth and Sixth Avenues had become the heart of this new business district. This Architectural Heritage Center tour examines downtown's temples of commerce, located mostly along Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Along the way one will see banks resembling classical Greek and Roman temples and learn about the early 20th century architects who left an indelible impression on Portland — in particular A. E. Doyle, Whidden & Lewis, and Reid & Reid. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 6PM Thursday, July 11. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Walking Tour of Historic Forest Grove
Missionaries and Oregon Trail pioneers arrived on the fertile West Tualitin Plain in the 1840s. In 1849, Tualitin Academy, later to become Pacific University, was the beginning of the community that grew into Forest Grove. The arrival of the railroad in the 1870s established Forest Grove as a trade center for the surrounding agricultural community. Much of the late 19th and early 20th century architecture can still be seen at the downtown intersection of Pacific Avenue and Main Street. This Positively Portland Walking Tour will start on the west end of Pacific University in front of Marsh Hall and have a look at some of the most significant historic buildings on campus before exploring the downtown district and continue for a look at a few of the most interesting historic houses in the city. Tour begins at Diversity Cafe, 2104 Main Street, Forest Grove. 10AM Friday, July 12. $15.

Portland's Downtown Bridges Tour
One of Portland's most common nicknames (along with monikers like Rose City and Stumptown) is Bridge City. This Architectural Heritage Center tour surveys the design, construction, and history of Portland's downtown area bridges, including the Hawthorne, Morrison, Burnside, Steel, Broadway and others. Along the way, attendees will learn about the historical forces that led to bridge construction, answering not only why they were built, but why they were built where they are. You're sure to come away from this tour with a better understanding of how our bridges have shaped Portland's growth and continue to impact the urban landscape. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Saturday, July 13. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Party on Patton
As part of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon's Dine & Design fundraiser series, which opens up homes and architectural spaces of interest for small public events, savor this re-envisioned residence by Giulietti Schouten Architects on a former three-acre sheep farm. Overly large mid-century derived eaves provide year-round outdoor living and create a protected walk to the two-level guest house, converted from an old farmhouse, with views to protected wetlands above and below the main house. Hosted Giulietti/Schouten architects and Don Tankersley Construction's Mike Horton and Pam Hroza, it's a chance to sip cocktails poolside and relax to the sounds of Giulietti’s band, Bleuphonk, on the outdoor dining terrace — all as a fundraiser for the AFO's scholarships, fellowships and K-12 educational programs. Location revealed with ticket purchase. 7PM Saturday, July 13. $75.

 

 

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The Portland Building under construction, 6/20/19 (Brian Libby)

 

BY BRIAN LIBBY

In an article for CityLab published yesterday, I wrote about the latest in a long line of controversial moments for the Portland Building, that flawed landmark of Postmodernist architecture that is now in the final stages of a transformative renovation and reconstruction.

This latest round of press, not just my article but a host of different national design publications and local media, has resulted from an announcement by the City of Portland's independent auditor, Mary Hull Caballero, found a lack of transparency as the budget has grown to $214 million and equity grants not been given out. What really interested me, though was the audit's finding that from a historic preservation perspective, the project was "on track to meet the baseline renovation goals but will fall short of other aspirations.” In particular, “the exterior design chosen to address water leaks will result in the circa-1982 building’s de-listing from the National Register of Historic Places.”

I was surprised by this last part of the audit, because when I wrote about the renovation design by DLR Group in 2017 for an article in Architect magazine, I remember the city's spokesperson, Kristin Wells of the City of Portland’s Office of Management and Finance, making it clear that they were willing to lose the building's National Register listing in order to pursue an over-cladding to the original concrete facade in order to stop the leaks once and for all. "In our kickoff meeting, the first thing we said was, ‘We will absolutely solve our envelope issues—period’,” Wells explained in that article.

What I wanted to know about the audit and its criticism was whether anyone from the City of Portland, as the Portland Building's owner, had ever explicitly, in writing or verbally, identified the National Register listing itself as the measuring stick for honoring the historic integrity of the building. I posed this question to city  auditor Tenzin Gonta, who works under Caballero. She cited project records “that reference historic integrity being part of scope. Each references the listing on the National Register as background about the building but not maintenance of that status as a specific goal.” That was what the audit was criticizing the City of Portland for: not losing or potentially losing the National Register listing, but rather in not coming out and explicitly saying it was worth paying that price.

"It’s not the auditor’s job to say, ‘This is or isn’t historic preservation.’ But if you go back, the team [of client and architect] really presented it as a historic preservation project," said Kate Kearney, president of Docomomo Oregon, in a portion of my interview for CityLab that didn't make it into the article. "They made a case for it. But in reality, they never came out and acknowledged that it could be de-listed."

It's not that the aluminum over-cladding is the only big change being made to the building, nor is it the only one that will substantially change its aesthetics. Simply switching the dark glass for clear glass gives the exterior a different composition. But nobody seems to argue much with that decision because it is so transformative for the interior. As DLR Group's Erica Ceder explained in the CityLab article, “The old glass that we pulled out of the building had a visible light transmittance value of 7 percent,” Ceder said. “The replacement glass is 77 percent.” That and trading drop ceilings for higher exposed concrete structural ceilings (painted white) has made the interior transformation absolutely incredible, as I saw on a recent construction tour.

Rather, it's the over-cladding that seems to be the rub for some preservationists, and understandably so. Other landmark 20th century buildings have had their facades replaced, like the UN Secretariat building by Oscar Niemeyer and Lever House by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, both masterworks. But those were essentially in-kind material replacements, whereas the Portland Building is putting metal over the painted-concrete facade.

"If you cover the character-defining features, how is that historic preservation?”  Kate Kearney, president of the Oregon chapter of Docomomo, argued in the CityLab article. “Personally, I don’t think that holds up."

 


Rendering of the Portland Building renovation (DLR Group)

 

Could they have patched the leaks without the over-cladding? Absolutely. “What the city said was, ‘We want you to give us a warranty for 10 years,’" architect and historic preservation expert Peter Meijer, who wrote the Portland Building's National Register listing in 2011, told me in the 2017 Architect story. "A repair of the existing façade will get you a warranty for three to five years, depending on the sealant, but not a 10-year warranty. The city raised the bar on their expectations to the point where there is only one solution: to completely cover it up with a brand-new skin. But metal panels will really never be able to have the same look as a painted concrete building.”

It was enough to prompt some critics, such as Antonio Pacheco of Archinect, to declare that the building has done more than lose its National Register listing. In Pacheco's words, or at least the headline-writers at Architect, the Portland Building is "no longer historically significant." On Twitter, Pacheco even went so far as to say he wished the building would have been torn down if the original architecture was not preserved. At least then, he argued, it could have served as an inspiring cautionary tale.

But buildings aren't museum pieces. I wonder if Pacheco ever walked the building, seeing its astonishingly dark interiors illuminated by oppressive fluorescent lights, or inspecting all the water damage.

Kristin Wells from the City of Portland got more specific about that patch job in today's CityLab article. "Keeping punched windows in a concrete shell sets us up for leaks again. At the end of the day, you’re still relying on caulking and re-caulking every five to 10 years," she said. "We do not want to be back in this situation again.”

A preservationist could still argue that caulking and re-caulking the Portland Building every five to ten years was not an unreasonable responsibility, and done right, it could stay ahead of the leaks. I mean, some beauties just require more maintenance. I used to own two old BMWs, and the first one in particular was, in my mind, more beautiful than any new car in production in 2019, and by a long shot. But the upkeep on that Bimmer was so expensive that it actually made it costlier to own a 1983 car than to buy a brand-new one. Eventually I had to get a Volkswagen. So has the Portland Building gone from a BMW to a Volkswagen? No. It's a BMW with some new parts that made it no longer authentic to its showroom-floor self. But it's a better ride than ever.

If one goes looking at the Portland Building with an eye for precedents, sure, there's reason to be alarmed. "It’s precedent-setting," Kearney said. "If it’s okay to over-clad a building from this era, then you’re going to perhaps make it okay for others. What if this happened to City Hall next door? Would we be okay if it was clad in metal? The era is not the issue." Of course that's a bit much. It's stretching the argument to an extreme hypothetical example. But it's also an argument rooted in principle, which has to be respected. We need people making these kinds of principled arguments, even if the Portland Building may be an exception.

Speaking of which — this notion of deciding whether or not this renovation is right or wrong — the one thing that frustrates me a little about the audit is the timing. I love that the City of Portland has an independent auditor. That's an effort to bring integrity to what the city is doing. It's very much a good idea to audit the Portland Building process. I even remember at the time being somewhat shocked by the notion of the over-cladding and openly wondering if such drastic action was a good idea when all that really was required to make the old facade work was essentially just some extra pro-active maintenance.

 


Portland Building reconstruction, 6/10/19 (Brian Libby)

 

Yet I decided back then that I would ultimately withhold judgment until I'd walked the completed building and had a chance to live with the renovation a little bit, and talk to the people who work inside. You don't need to wait for that later date to talk about the principle of a landmark building's facade replacement with an altogether different material, because that discussion is not about whether or not the inside of the renovated building is better. Of course it will be better — but at what cost to history? That's the question. Yet even having said all that, I find it odd that the audit is prompting another round of debate about the Portland Building that is neither at the design stage nor at the completion stage. It feels like the mother is in labor and we're in the waiting room arguing about whether to have the kid.

The one decision I do already find myself moving towards, or anticipate having after the building is completed, is that maybe there is no definitive answer. It reminds me of my days as a movie critic back in the late '90s and early '00s. Some movies had clear good guys and bad guys. Some movies ended with closure for the characters — they'd ride off into the sunset after surviving the big plot complication. But other movies came with antiheroes and ambiguous endings. The stars weren't solely virtuous and brave, nor were they demonically evil. They were actual people in evocatively real-life situations, and part of the essence of the story was that you have to accept the ambiguity and lack of closure.

I find the Portland Building as architecture to somehow aspire to be one of those movie heroes: the pure good guy with transcendent power. But it turned out to be the flawed hero in search of a final resolution that may never come.

I think it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that the interior of the new Portland Building blows away the interior of the old Portland Building, and besides, that old interior lacked Graves's fingerprint. "I didn’t do the interiors,” Graves reminded me in 2014 interview for Architect magazine. “I’m blamed for them, because of the [dark] windows. But I didn’t do the interiors of the building.”

These interiors are not just so much more full of light and with bigger, less compressed volumes of space thanks to the removal of the drop ceilings, but they connect the inside of the building to the outside so much more. You're not relying solely on the tiny square windows anymore because the middle portions of the facade wash the whole space with light and give the eye more of a sense of panorama coming from a view across the different windows.

Yet I do suspect that in some ways the be paid will be a slight bit of authenticity lost that one learns to live with, much as the rebuilt old buildings of Germany and Japan that I've visited have felt. Visiting Nuremberg and Berlin and Tokyo, and seeing some "old" cathedral or temple that was essentially rebuilt from rubble and a couple of standing walls after World War II, I knew that they were not as purely old and historic as, say, a cathedral in Britain or elsewhere in Europe or Asia that survived. (In Japan it seemed less of a conundrum because their culture ritualistically rebuilds some of its most sacred architecture.) But it's hard to argue definitively against those cities' desire to rekindle the best of their cultural heritages, and reclaim them from fascist' manipulation and corruption of heritage.

The Portland Building is not some ancient relic, of course. Just the fact that it had such systematic problems a mere 35 years after its completion says something: through the City of Portland's own cheapness, it was inherently flawed from the start. You have to respect the fact that it's not inherently flawed anymore, either in terms of its construction or the user experience. But the ambiguity of its authenticity, or at least the multi-faceted and mult-era nature of that fingerprint, has to be considered an indelible part of the Portland Building story. That's not just true right now, however. In a way, it's always been true. After all, that's really what the architectural language of Graves's design and Postmodernism are about.

As I've said before, maybe it's fitting that the renovation of this Postmodern landmark is itself postmodern. The Portland Building: postmodern Postmodernism.

 

 

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Montana 12 (Architecture Building Culture)

 

BY BRIAN LIBBY

Garthwick Neighborhood Tour
Located just south of Sellwood and north of the Waverly Country Club, this hidden residential neighborhood provided a great outdoor laboratory for architects and builders working in the most popular residential styles of the 20th century. This Architectural Heritage Center tour explores one of Southeast Portland's lesser-known historic neighborhoods. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Tuesday, June 18. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Tour of Marshall Elementary and McLoughlin Middle School
As part of the CSI Education Series from the Oregon chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute, attendees on this tour of Marshall Elementary and McLoughlin Middle School in Vancouver, designed by LSW Architects and part of CSI's Learning and Libations series, can learn about the complexity of joining cross-laminated timber with Tilt-up Concrete panels as well as the coordination involved with properly locating mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. The tour will be led by Larry Curran of Skanska, the schools' general contractor. Skanksa Trailer near 5802 Macarthur Boulevard, Vancouver, Washington. 3PM Tuesday, June 18. $10 ($5 for students).

Sprouting a Green School
Green and high-performance school buildings offer students and teachers healthy and productive learning spaces and deliver cost avoidance on utility expenses to put money back into classrooms. Delivering a green school requires an integrated design process, agreement of project goals, dynamic team communication and utilizing absolute energy targets to design and construct. During this interactive discussion, the second in the 2019 Growing A Green School discussion series from AIA Portland's Green Schools Committee, panelists will discuss stakeholder engagement, building assessment, design process, and technology applications used to guide their green school design projects. Moderated by Glumac chief sustainability strategist Nicole Isle, the panel will also include Energy Trust of Oregon outreach manager Elin Shepard, Oh Planning + Design principal Deb France, and Bassetti Architecture principal Joe Echeverri. Gensler, 811 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 300. 5PM Tuesday, June 18. Free.

InProcess: Pigeon Toe Ceramics and Architecture Building Culture
As part of the InProcess quarterly lecture series presented by AIA Portland, which explores the creative process of local architects, designers, makers, and creators, come presentations from Lisa Jones of Pigeon Toe Ceramics and Brian Cavanaugh of Architecture Building Culture. With an aversion to the excess of mass-produced goods, Jones formed Pigeon Toe in 2008 fresh out of art school with a vision to create uniquely beautiful objects grounded in American crafts and manufacturing. Her work has been featured in publications from Dwell and the New York Times to Sunset. With over 25 years of experience, Cavanaugh's firm has designed a variety of residential, hospitality and mixed-use projects around the Pacific Rim, winning local, regional/state and national awards from the AIA as well as the 2012 AIA Young Architects Award and the 2014 ABC AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Emerging Firm of the Year Award. AIA Center for Architecture, 403 NW 11th Avenue. 5:30 PM Tuesday, June 18. Free.

Broadway and Mid-Town Tour
Beginning in the 1890s, the area downtown between Southwest Broadway and Ninth Avenue underwent a dramatic change from a residential neighborhood on the edge of town to a bustling commercial and cultural district. This Architectural Heritage Center tour takes a look at what are today some of the most well recognized and architecturally significant buildings in the city. Attendees will see the work of some of the premier Portland architects of the early 20th century, including A. E. Doyle, John V. Bennes and Morris Whitehouse, while also hearing stories about the city’s first public library and one-time park blocks that were lost to development. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Thursday, June 20. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Material Transparency PechaKucha
Hosted by the Oregon chapter of the International Interior Design Association, this event will include a rapid PechaKucha-style event (wherein presenters can show 20 slides for 20 seconds each) featuring subject experts who will cover a variety of topics including material transparency resources, software tools, and updates from local sustainability organizations. The presentations will provide a quick overview of how the Architecture and Design community can include material declarations into specifications, gain access to software and resources becoming standard in the industry. Grit Building Solutions, 919 SW Taylor Street, #800. 5:30PM Thursday, June 20. $20 (free for IIDA members and students).

Historic Laurelhurst Walking Tour
Laurelhurst is one of the most architecturally distinctive neighborhoods in Portland. With beginnings as a planned streetcar suburb, this area has a high concentration of early 20th century Arts and Crafts-influenced residences as well as some grand Colonial Revivals. This Positively Portland walking tour will include several landmark residences, including the  the Doyle/Albee House (1913) and the Green/Bitar Mansion (1928). Tour begins at Petit Provence, 3420 NE Sandy Boulevard. 10AM Friday, June 21. $15.

Build Small, Live Large: ADU Tour
A self-guided tour of 17 accessory dwelling units sprinkled throughout the Portland area. Now in its sixth year, the tour is also a chance to meet the homeowners, builders, and designers who built them. Tour begins at Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel, 5009 NE 11th Avenue. 10AM Saturday, June 22. $30.

Historic Downtown Gresham Tour
The village of Gresham, originally known as "Campground", was a stop-over place for pioneers on the Oregon Trail in the last stage of their epic journey from the East. The village was later named for the US Postmaster who granted the small village a post office. By the turn of the 20th century the interurban railway connected Gresham to Portland and the population grew quickly. We'll start the walk with a tour of the Gresham Historical Society and then have a walk around downtown to look at the remaining historic commercial and residential buildings and speculate on what may be the future of this growing city. Tour begins at Gresham Historical Society, 410 N Main Avenue. 10AM Saturday, June 22. $15.

Old Town Tour
The commercial district near the Skidmore Fountain and the oldest standing buildings in downtown comprise this tour of Portland’s only National Landmark Historic District. Visitors on this Architectural Heritage Center tour will see the work of Portland’s earliest architects, learning how cast iron played a central role in their designs and how the city developed so close to the river. Along the way, visitors will also learn about some beautiful but long-lost buildings while also seeing great examples of historic preservation. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Saturday, June 22. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Historic Albina Tour
Once a separate city from Portland, Albina has a lengthy and diverse history – along with some fascinating architecture. This Architectural Heritage Center tour explores old Albina from stories of early proprietors and its development as a railroad town, to its transformation into the heart of Portland's African-American community and the impacts of urban renewal. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Saturday, June 22. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Montgomery Street Residences Lecture and Tour
The Pacific Northwest regional chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art plays host to a combined lecture, tour and drawing class over consecutive days. The event will begin with a lecture on French-American architecture by Stephen Chrisman, a principal at New York's Ferguson & Shamamian. The ensuing day's tour will focus on historic period houses from the era of American Beaux Arts eclecticism, beginning with a private viewing of the A.J. Lewthwaite house, desugbed in the French Renaissance Louis XVI style by Albert Parr & Francis Ward of San Francisco and completed in 1926. Other residences on the tour will include the circa-1922 Tudor-style Max S. Hirsch residence by Ellis Lawrence, the elegant Jacobethan-style Leon Hirsch residence from 1922 by Sutton & Whitney, the Colonial-style William P. Hawley residence by Lawrence from 1927, A.E. Doyle's English Cottage-style Coleman Wheeler residence by from 1923, and Doyle's Jacobethan masterpiece, the Frank J. Cobb residence from 1917. Lecture will be held at Emerick Architects, 321 SW Fourth Avenue, Suite 200. 5PM Saturday, June 22. Tour begins at 1715 SW Montgomery Drive. 10:30AM Sunday, June 23. Free.

Portland Heights and Vista Avenue Tour
This Architectural Heritage Center tour explores Portland Heights,  a mostly residential Southwest Portland neighborhood with Vista Avenue running through its center. It was once a very difficult area to build in, or even get to, before it became a popular residential district, as transportation options increased in Portland during the late 19th century. Today the mixture of homes, ranging in style from Colonial Revival to Art Deco, is a veritable “who’s who” of Portland architects and their masterworks. Attendees will see homes designed by the likes of A.E. Doyle, Emil Schacht, Edgar Lazarus, and Morris Whitehouse. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Tuesday, June 25. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Garden + Lecture Series: Steve Bloom
As Part of the Portland Japanese Garden's Garden + Lecture Series, CEO Steve Bloom will share insights and stories from his recently-completed residency in Japan and beyond. During six months in late 2018 and early 2019, Bloom visited gardens and arts organizations in Japan, Singapore, Brazil, China, and the United Kingdom: telling the story of the Garden, building new connections, and seeking opportunities for collaboration and exchange. He’ll reflect on what he learned and on new ways that the Garden can build on its role of facilitating understanding to make the world a more tranquil and peaceful place. Portland Japanese Garden, 611 SW Kingston Avenue. 4:30PM Tuesday, June 25. $20 ($15 for Portland Japanese Garden members).

Refresh at Providence Park
Originally Multnomah Field, the stadium now known as Providence Park has been a part of the Portland cityscape since 1893. It first became a stadium in 1923 in a design by the great A.E. Doyle, and has undergone numerous name changes and renovations through the years. The latest update, designed by Allied Works, includes a multi-tier, vertical wall that puts viewers on top of the action, enhancing the stadium’s already legendary atmosphere. This Architecture Foundation of Oregon fundraiser offers a stadium tour and the chance to hear about the re-design of this Portland icon from Providence Park’s new Duracell Deck. Providence Park, 1844 SW Morrison Street. 4:30 PM Thursday, June 27. $60 ($45 for AFO members, $15 for volunteers in the AFO's Architects In Schools program).

Lair Hill Neighborhood Tour
It turns out that Lair Hill is not named for a hill. Named for pioneering Portland lawyer and newspaper editor William Lair Hill, this residential neighborhood and subject of an Architectural Heritage Center tour is one of Portland’s oldest. Lair Hill contains a fascinating mix of historic homes, along with notable buildings significant for their connections to the city’s early immigrant populations. It’s also a neighborhood that was impacted by urban renewal and freeway development. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 6PM Thursday, June 27. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

South Park Blocks Tour
This eleven-block portion of the downtown area was first platted and donated to the City of Portland in 1852, transforming a fire break parcel into the most desirable residential area of its day, complete with schools, playgrounds, stately homes and places of worship. On this Architectural Heritage Center tour one can take a stroll through the groves of elms and recount some of the stories they would love to tell about the area’s history and architecture. The South Park Blocks stand alone as a place of revitalization, refreshment and cultural allure. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Saturday, June 29. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

Willamette Heights Neighborhood Tour
Some of Portland’s most notable architects, including Emil Schacht, designed homes in Willamette Heights, an area that borders the site of the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition. This Architectural Heritage Center tour is strenuous walk through this hilly neighborhood. Tour meetup location revealed with ticket purchase. 10AM Saturday, June 29. $20 ($12 for AHC members).

 

 

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Rose Parade 2019 - YouTube

Last Saturday's Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade (Brian Libby)

 

BY BRIAN LIBBY

If there is a signature song for Veterans Memorial Coliseum, perhaps it ought to be "Louie Louie."

Sure, you could make the case for the Trail Blazers' unofficial theme song, the instrumental one with the horns from the old TV broadcasts. Or you could go for an early Beatles song given that they (with apologies to Hendrix, Dylan and others) are arguably the crowning act to have played Memorial Coliseum.

But given that the history of "Louie Louie" and its origins neatly parallel the beginnings of the Coliseum itself, and that it's the most popular song recording ever to come out of Portland, you wouldn't go amiss choosing this Kingsmen standard. "Louie Louie" was written and first recorded by Richard Perry in 1955, about the same time the Coliseum was being conceived. It was re-recorded by The Kingsmen in 1963, at a studio in downtown Portland, just three years after the Coliseum's completion.

Then again, maybe I'm just feeling sentimental after attending the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade last Saturday at the Coliseum with my mom, who is an endearingly big fan of marching bands and parades. "Louie Louie," I learned on Saturday, is still the marching-band song that seems to get everyone excited — at least the older crowd assembled here.

Why pay $15 or $30 plus astronomical Ticketmaster fees to see a parade you can see for free on the streets of Portland? For that reason, attendance at the Coliseum for the parade is sparse, maybe a couple thousand, as it has been in past years. But for many, it's a chance to have a guaranteed seat in a specific place that's out of the elements. I mean, it rains on Rose Parade day fairly often.

For me, of course, it was a chance not so much to see the parade as to experience Memorial Coliseum the way it was meant — on virtually the only it's possible.

For 363 or 364 days a year, a black curtain blocks the 360-degree view to the outside that's possible from the Coliseum's more than 10,000 seats. It's a one-of-a-kind architectural experience: a venue larger than a couple of Portland city blocks that's transparent on all four sides, in a way that's visible not just from the concourse but the arena bowl itself. But the Coliseum's operators are reluctant to open and close the curtains given their fragile nature, as a nearly 60-year-old mechanism. So it's only open for the Grand Floral Parade and sometimes a Portland Winterhawks matinee hockey game in January.

What it means to have the curtain open at a daytime event is that Coliseum attendees don't feel disconnected from the outside, like would be the case in practically any other arena ever built. Instead, the sunlight pours in. But it's too much of a wild card to touring acts that have never had to account for so much natural light before, so they keep it closed most of the time.

Interestingly, though, introducing natural light into large-scale arenas like NBA teams play in is an unmistakable architectural trend, as seen in recent arenas like the Sacramento Kings' Golden One Center. But it's still a fraction of the glass and transparency that exists at Memorial Coliseum with its curtain properly open. None of them close to giving you a 360-degree view outside like the Coliseum has. The closest I've ever encountered besides the Coliseum is the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin by the great Mies van der Rohe, completed in 1968 — eight years after the Coliseum. But it's an art museum, not an arena.

And of course there's a larger connection between these two buildings: Myron Goldsmith, the lead architect for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill on the Coliseum, studied under Mies. Goldsmith also designed Oracle Arena, where the Golden State Warriors will play their last game tonight, before moving to a new arena in San Francisco.

What occurred to me in days since last Saturday's parade at the Coliseum was that this was the first ticketed event I've attended since April, which marked the 10th anniversary of the grassroots to save the building from demolition.

 


A recent view of the Coliseum (Brian Libby)

 

Back in 2009, Mayor Sam Adams had introduced a plan to tear down the city-owned Coliseum in order to build a baseball stadium for the lower-minor-league Portland Beavers. The Beavers had played for decades in what's now Providence Park (originally Civic Stadium), but lost their home when it was converted to a soccer-only facility.

There's no doubt that the Providence Park conversion was a good idea, because it accompanied and enabled the Portland Timbers' jump to Major League Soccer, setting the table for the ensuing explosion of citywide Timbers and Thorns fandom. But building a minor league baseball stadium from scratch, in the center of the city? Come on. I mean, think of it this way if you're a baseball fan: had we built that stadium, it would now be arguably hindering the current effort to lure a Major League Baseball franchise and build a correspondingly MLB-caliber stadium.

And besides, from a strictly number standpoint, even after the Trail Blazers departed Memorial Coliseum in 1996 for the Rose Garden arena next door (now the Moda Center), the Coliseum remained busy, with well over 100 events a year. While the Moda Center became the first-choice venue for big touring acts as well as the Blazers' home, the Coliseum was quietly the only local venue in that slightly smaller range: bigger than the downtown theaters and auditoriums yet half the size of the Moda.

Credit Adams for ultimately backing away from the baseball-stadium plan after boisterous community opposition. Even I got involved, participating in the formation of what became known as the Friends of Memorial Coliseum. Adams initially explored a range of ideas through what was called a stakeholder advisory committee overseen by the Portland Development Commission (now Prosper Portland), many of them unrealistic and not viable, if not ridiculous. Water park, anyone? Peace garden?

What they discovered—they being not only Mayor Adams but his successor, Mayor Charlie Hales—was that no conversion of a multi-use arena to a single-use venue would make as much economic sense as simply letting the Coliseum do its thing. Mayor Hales did his part by commissioning a third-party economic study that found the arena would turn a profit with even a modest restoration. In fact, even after a very limited $5 million "refresh" in 2017, the building is already doing just that. If a full-scale restoration happened, something more in the $50-75 million range, the study estimated the Coliseum could generate some $2 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years.

You can't talk about Memorial Coliseum and the Moda Center without discussing what a dead zone the collective Rose Quarter property is, and how desperately it's in need of an urban-design fix. You don't need a master's degree in urban planning to see what the problem is, either. It's a trio of above-ground parking garages, one attached to the Moda Center itself and the other two across the street, blocking the two arenas' connection to Broadway, a streetcar-lined major thoroughfare. Actually, it's four garages, because there's also the One Center Court building between the arenas, which is really just a couple of office floors built onto another parking garage.

 


Last Saturday's Grand Floral Parade (Brian Libby)

 

There could be an urban-design textbook called What Not To Do and this wasteland of parking garages would likely be pictured on the cover.

Thankfully there's the Albina Vision, a community-driven initiative that's also rooted in very good urban design. It proposes a series of changes to the Rose Quarter that would not only make it a wonderful, pedestrian and greenspace-oriented space extending to the riverfront, but would also help restore the Albina neighborhood that unfortunately Memorial Coliseum, along with Emanuel Hospital and Interstate 5, largely demolished. Let's face it: like other midcentury urban renewal projects, Memorial Coliseum should have been built somewhere else, somewhere that didn't trample people's homes with a disturbing penchant for neighborhoods occupied largely by minorities. Yet continuing the cycle of destruction by demolishing a beautiful and useful and oft-used arena doesn't make things better. It makes them worse. That's why a restored Coliseum (or at least the presumption of it) is part of the Albina Vision.

Though it's tempting to stop and celebrate that the Coliseum has lived another decade, it's not really saved until it's truly restored. The economic case is already there and now it's a matter of City Council approving the funds. I've heard increased whispering that some funding could become available in the near future, more so than I've heard about in most of the past ten years. It could be one big funding package or a series of smaller restorations. But this also very well turn out to be a mirage given the lack of leadership City Council has shown over the past decade in fixing the Coliseum, particularly under Mayor Charlie Hales from 2013-17. For what it's worth, a majority of the current City Council members have expressed support for a Coliseum restoration.

It's all part of a larger puzzle emerging at the east end of the Broadway Bridge. There's a relatively new Portland Streetcar line, and streetcars are development tools even more than they are transportation. The Lloyd District is burgeoning into more of a high-density, mixed-use neighborhood just to the east, and just north of the Rose Quarter and the freeway overpasses, North and Northeast Portland are experiencing a wave of development. This under-utilized stretch of Broadway between the river and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, particularly when you add the adjacent Portland Public Schools site likely to be vacated in the years ahead, is so centrally located that it would be ridiculous for it not to become a place of increasingly tall buildings where housing, commercial and retail exist together with greenspace and public buildings like the two arenas. 

As I sat in Row G at the Coliseum on Saturday, though, I wasn't thinking about economic impact or urban planning. I was enjoying amateur trumpet and trombone players and drummers marching straight through the floor of the arena, the only such parade-architectural mashup in the country if not beyond. I was looking at the tops of the trees peeking over the seating bowl and through the glass. Think about it: have you ever looked at trees from an arena before? That transparency and volume and light are what modern architecture is all about. And if it happens to the tune of "Louie Louie," as hand-made, flower-covered floats roll by, it makes for an endearing civic celebration in a glorious place. As a Generation X member, there's some part of me that is a little too cynical for rah-rah boosterism, but I really like the combination of this guileless parade in this heroically aspirational yet still slightly run-down landmark.

May they both be around for a long time.

 

 

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Rose Parade 2019 - YouTube

Last Saturday's Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade (Brian Libby)

 

BY BRIAN LIBBY

If there is a signature song for Veterans Memorial Coliseum, perhaps it ought to be "Louie Louie."

Sure, you could make the case for the Trail Blazers' unofficial theme song, the instrumental one with the horns from the old TV broadcasts. Or you could go for an early Beatles song given that they (with apologies to Hendrix, Dylan and others) are arguably the crowning act to have played Memorial Coliseum.

But given that the history of "Louie Louie" and its origins neatly parallel the beginnings of the Coliseum itself, and that it's the most popular song recording ever to come out of Portland, you wouldn't go amiss choosing this Kingsmen standard. "Louie Louie" was written and first recorded by Richard Perry in 1955, about the same time the Coliseum was being conceived. It was re-recorded by The Kingsmen in 1963, at a studio in downtown Portland, just three years after the Coliseum's completion.

Then again, maybe I'm just feeling sentimental after attending the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade last Saturday at the Coliseum with my mom, who is an endearingly big fan of marching bands and parades. "Louie Louie," I learned on Saturday, is still the marching-band song that seems to get everyone excited — at least the older crowd assembled here.

Why pay $15 or $30 plus astronomical Ticketmaster fees to see a parade you can see for free on the streets of Portland? For that reason, attendance at the Coliseum for the parade is sparse, maybe a couple thousand, as it has been in past years. But for many, it's a chance to have a guaranteed seat in a specific place that's out of the elements. I mean, it rains on Rose Parade day fairly often.

For me, of course, it was a chance not so much to see the parade as to experience Memorial Coliseum the way it was meant — on virtually the only it's possible.

For 363 or 364 days a year, a black curtain blocks the 360-degree view to the outside that's possible from the Coliseum's more than 10,000 seats. It's a one-of-a-kind architectural experience: a venue larger than a couple of Portland city blocks that's transparent on all four sides, in a way that's visible not just from the concourse but the arena bowl itself. But the Coliseum's operators are reluctant to open and close the curtains given their fragile nature, as a nearly 60-year-old mechanism. So it's only open for the Grand Floral Parade and sometimes a Portland Winterhawks matinee hockey game in January.

What it means to have the curtain open at a daytime event is that Coliseum attendees don't feel disconnected from the outside, like would be the case in practically any other arena ever built. Instead, the sunlight pours in. But it's too much of a wild card to touring acts that have never had to account for so much natural light before, so they keep it closed most of the time.

Interestingly, though, introducing natural light into large-scale arenas like NBA teams play in is an unmistakable architectural trend, as seen in recent arenas like the Sacramento Kings' Golden One Center. But it's still a fraction of the glass and transparency that exists at Memorial Coliseum with its curtain properly open. None of them close to giving you a 360-degree view outside like the Coliseum has. The closest I've ever encountered besides the Coliseum is the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin by the great Mies van der Rohe, completed in 1968 — eight years after the Coliseum. But it's an art museum, not an arena.

And of course there's a larger connection between these two buildings: Myron Goldsmith, the lead architect for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill on the Coliseum, studied under Mies. Goldsmith also designed Oracle Arena, where the Golden State Warriors will play their last game tonight, before moving to a new arena in San Francisco.

What occurred to me in days since last Saturday's parade at the Coliseum was that this was the first ticketed event I've attended since April, which marked the 10th anniversary of the grassroots to save the building from demolition.

 


A recent view of the Coliseum (Brian Libby)

 

Back in 2009, Mayor Sam Adams had introduced a plan to tear down the city-owned Coliseum in order to build a baseball stadium for the lower-minor-league Portland Beavers. The Beavers had played for decades in what's now Providence Park (originally Civic Stadium), but lost their home when it was converted to a soccer-only facility.

There's no doubt that the Providence Park conversion was a good idea, because it accompanied and enabled the Portland Timbers' jump to Major League Soccer, setting the table for the ensuing explosion of citywide Timbers and Thorns fandom. But building a minor league baseball stadium from scratch, in the center of the city? Come on. I mean, think of it this way if you're a baseball fan: had we built that stadium, it would now be arguably hindering the current effort to lure a Major League Baseball franchise and build a correspondingly MLB-caliber stadium.

And besides, from a strictly number standpoint, even after the Trail Blazers departed Memorial Coliseum in 1996 for the Rose Garden arena next door (now the Moda Center), the Coliseum remained busy, with well over 100 events a year. While the Moda Center became the first-choice venue for big touring acts as well as the Blazers' home, the Coliseum was quietly the only local venue in that slightly smaller range: bigger than the downtown theaters and auditoriums yet half the size of the Moda.

Credit Adams for ultimately backing away from the baseball-stadium plan after boisterous community opposition. Even I got involved, participating in the formation of what became known as the Friends of Memorial Coliseum. Adams initially explored a range of ideas through what was called a stakeholder advisory committee overseen by the Portland Development Commission (now Prosper Portland), many of them unrealistic and not viable, if not ridiculous. Water park, anyone? Peace garden?

What they discovered—they being not only Mayor Adams but his successor, Mayor Charlie Hales—was that no conversion of a multi-use arena to a single-use venue would make as much economic sense as simply letting the Coliseum do its thing. Mayor Hales did his part by commissioning a third-party economic study that found the arena would turn a profit with even a modest restoration. In fact, even after a very limited $5 million "refresh" in 2017, the building is already doing just that. If a full-scale restoration happened, something more in the $50-75 million range, the study estimated the Coliseum could generate some $2 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years.

You can't talk about Memorial Coliseum and the Moda Center without discussing what a dead zone the collective Rose Quarter property is, and how desperately it's in need of an urban-design fix. You don't need a master's degree in urban planning to see what the problem is, either. It's a trio of above-ground parking garages, one attached to the Moda Center itself and the other two across the street, blocking the two arenas' connection to Broadway, a streetcar-lined major thoroughfare. Actually, it's four garages, because there's also the One Center Court building between the arenas, which is really just a couple of office floors built onto another parking garage.

 


Last Saturday's Grand Floral Parade (Brian Libby)

 

There could be an urban-design textbook called What Not To Do and this wasteland of parking garages would likely be pictured on the cover.

Thankfully there's the Albina Vision, a community-driven initiative that's also rooted in very good urban design. It proposes a series of changes to the Rose Quarter that would not only make it a wonderful, pedestrian and greenspace-oriented space extending to the riverfront, but would also help restore the Albina neighborhood that unfortunately Memorial Coliseum, along with Emanuel Hospital and Interstate 5, largely demolished. Let's face it: like other midcentury urban renewal projects, Memorial Coliseum should have been built somewhere else, somewhere that didn't trample people's homes with a disturbing penchant for neighborhoods occupied largely by minorities. Yet continuing the cycle of destruction by demolishing a beautiful and useful and oft-used arena doesn't make things better. It makes them worse. That's why a restored Coliseum (or at least the presumption of it) is part of the Albina Vision.

Though it's tempting to stop and celebrate that the Coliseum has lived another decade, it's not really saved until it's truly restored. The economic case is already there and now it's a matter of City Council approving the funds. I've heard increased whispering that some funding could become available in the near future, more so than I've heard about in most of the past ten years. It could be one big funding package or a series of smaller restorations. But this also very well turn out to be a mirage given the lack of leadership City Council has shown over the past decade in fixing the Coliseum, particularly under Mayor Charlie Hales from 2013-17. For what it's worth, a majority of the current City Council members have expressed support for a Coliseum restoration.

It's all part of a larger puzzle emerging at the east end of the Broadway Bridge. There's a relatively new Portland Streetcar line, and streetcars are development tools even more than they are transportation. The Lloyd District is burgeoning into more of a high-density, mixed-use neighborhood just to the east, and just north of the Rose Quarter and the freeway overpasses, North and Northeast Portland are experiencing a wave of development. This under-utilized stretch of Broadway between the river and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, particularly when you add the adjacent Portland Public Schools site likely to be vacated in the years ahead, is so centrally located that it would be ridiculous for it not to become a place of increasingly tall buildings where housing, commercial and retail exist together with greenspace and public buildings like the two arenas. 

As I sat in Row G at the Coliseum on Saturday, though, I wasn't thinking about economic impact or urban planning. I was enjoying amateur trumpet and trombone players and drummers marching straight through the floor of the arena, the only such parade-architectural mashup in the country if not beyond. I was looking at the tops of the trees peeking over the seating bowl and through the glass. Think about it: have you ever looked at trees from an arena before? That transparency and volume and light are what modern architecture is all about. And if it happens to the tune of "Louie Louie," as hand-made, flower-covered floats roll by, it makes for an endearing civic celebration in a glorious place. As a Generation X member, there's some part of me that is a little too cynical for rah-rah boosterism, but I really like the combination of this guileless parade in this heroically aspirational yet still slightly run-down landmark.

May they both be around for a long time.

 

 

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Karen Lange (Waterleaf Architecture)

 

BY JENNIFER WRIGHT

Next in our series highlighting local designers is Karen Lange, an associate at Waterleaf Architecture, Interiors & Planning.

Starting her career working at two large-scale Manhattan-based firms, Lange relocated to Portland in 2006 and quickly found a position as a project architect at Waterleaf. An alumnus of the University of Notre Dame, Lange was greatly inspired by a quote from a former professor: “Architects bear an enormous responsibility as stewards of creation.”  This social responsibility to achieve a higher purpose is what drove Lange to encourage Waterleaf in its pursuit of earning B Corp status, becoming the first architecture firm in Oregon to meet these rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency aligned with benefit corporations. Last year Lange, , the sole female on Waterleaf's leadership team, earned a 2018 Women of Vision Award from the Daily Journal of Commerce.  

Portland Architecture: When did you first become interested in architecture as a possible career?

Karen Lange: I took a drafting class in my final semester of high school for an easy credit, and I found that I really enjoyed technical drawing. I have always enjoyed drawing and various forms of the arts, constantly having the need to create. This class provided training that turned my doodles into something with an actual purpose, and it gave me a way to translate my creative ideas into something tangible and real. I still enjoy the process of distilling messy thoughts into the salient points that really communicate a message clearly. That drafting class was my first inkling that there could be a future using this type of skill. I started out in the engineering program at Notre Dame and quickly found out that all the math and science classes I loved and did so well in during high school got a lot harder. I switched into the architecture program in my second year, and not only did my grades improve but so did my investment in what I was learning. It became clear that this was a field that combined many of my varied interests, from how things work to history and art.

Where did you study architecture and how would you rate the experience?

I have a bachelor of architecture degree from the University of Notre Dame. The program is based on traditional urbanism and the study of classical architecture with an emphasis on the local vernacular. It also includes a year abroad in Rome, which was fundamental to the curriculum and life-altering in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. I grew up in a small town in New Mexico, with some traveling under my belt but nothing like the intensive experience of living in a place with so many layers and the academic focus to really dig in and inhabit that history. The overall experience at Notre Dame provided me with a solid foundation in history, sketching, composition, leadership, and other critical aspects of the design profession that transcend project types and whatever technology you use as a tool. I also came away with an attitude that as architects and designers we have a responsibility to solve problems and create healthy communities that thrive. Ultimately, this is a career of service.

What is your favorite building project that you’ve worked on?

I have a few favorites that come to mind. One is the 2006 Showhouse for Southern Accents magazine, located in Windmark Beach, Florida, which I worked on while at Cooper Robertson & Partners in New York City. This was a dream project in the fact that since the magazine was the client, the design team had almost free rein with the program and there was not really any limit to the budget. It turned out beautifully, plus I got to visit Florida several times.

 


Showhouse for Southern Accents magazine (Cooper Robertson)

 

Another more recent favorite project is the Clubhouse at Domaine Serene in Yamhill County, completed in 2017 with Waterleaf Architecture. The style of this project was very much dictated by the client as it was fitting in with the existing winery campus and was not necessarily something that would normally come out of our office. But the traditional style reminded me of my college studio days fussing over symmetry and molding details, plus the surrounding vineyards could be straight out of Tuscany. So it was nostalgic for me in those ways.

But what I perhaps enjoyed the most about the Clubhouse project was the amazing team I was fortunate to work with, which included a lot of stellar detail work by subcontractors (the project includes a half mile of handcrafted plaster trim). That’s another side of the profession that I pay a lot of attention to; it’s not always what you build but who you build with. It was a very challenging project in many ways but the strength of the team made it a real success.

 


Clubhouse at Domaine Serene (Waterleaf Architecture, Interiors and Planning)

 

Who has been an important mentor among your colleagues?

I think anyone can become a mentor, sometimes in unexpected ways. For example, at one firm I ended up sitting next to one of the marketing staff and that’s how I learned Photoshop – just by looking over his shoulder and asking how he did things. Currently at Waterleaf, I would say that I’ve learned different things from different people. From retired designer Mark Mikolavich, the importance of having a thoughtful process and using the right pen. From retired partner Dick Aanderud, the concept that the person across the table from you “puts their pants on the same way you do.” From managing partner Bill Bailey, that doing business is really about taking care of your people.  From design lead Stephen Lapp, the power of a clean diagram. And from my official office mentor, partner Jon Styner, the value in creating a solid team and saying yes to opportunities. Jon has also been an instrumental ally for me in leading Waterleaf’s efforts to achieve certification as a B Corporation in 2016. Participating in the B Corp community is a way for a lot of us in the firm to bring our personal and professional values together and focus our efforts in using our business as a force for good.

What part of the job do you like best, and as an architect what do you think you most excel at?

The great thing about this profession is there are so many different ways for people to find their niche. I enjoy the schematic design phase quite a bit, where some pieces of the puzzle are still loose and you get to just try out a lot of ideas, draw diagrams, and start to see how things start to shake out.  I enjoy the creative process but prefer some boundaries to work within, and I like the challenge of working through solutions while maintaining a central vision. From a different angle, I think the construction phase is really exciting, when you actually get to see your ideas materialize. There’s a different sort of puzzle-solving when you are working with the contractor to solve issues in the field. I also really do enjoy the paper trail of documentation at this stage, to be honest. It’s a great feeling to wrap up an RFI [Request for Information] and send it off, tracking it all on your spreadsheet. I’m a little nerdy that way.

What are some Portland buildings (either new or historic) that you most admire? 

I spend a lot of time walking around downtown and frequently pass by two buildings I really enjoy. One is the Multnomah County Central Library, by A.E. Doyle from 1913. It has so many great details and a real sense of stateliness and grandeur. It’s like a church in the way the entire building is designed for a single purpose. It’s also symbolic of the care that can be taken to ensure landmark buildings (or any building) can last a very long time when properly cared for and appreciated (the library underwent a major structural renovation in the mid 1990s). It’s a grand building that is open for all to experience, not just a fancy façade or lobby you see when passing by. I also just have a fondness for libraries and I love to disappear into the stacks (my first dream career was librarian, because I thought you just got to read all day). Coworkers, if I’m late coming back from lunch hour, there’s a good chance you’ll find me there.

 


Central Library (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Another building that always catches my eye is the Union Bank Tower (originally the Bank of California building), by Anshen + Allen, completed in 1969. I have a feeling this might be a common answer. It’s pretty much the opposite of the library in terms of amount of ornate detail, as it has very clean lines. There’s something compelling about the way the solid material rises up towards sky with a real lightness and the lower volume appears to slide right under the taller volume. I also appreciate the detail of how the green color of the slate that covers large portions of the building is brought down right into the entry paving and steps. The lobby has the same loftiness that the structure’s exterior expresses. I think it’s one of those buildings that is much better experienced in person than in a photograph.

I seem to be feeling the spirit of the library again since the Union Bank Tower sits on the site of the original main library’s location; that library dated to 1893. I also love the contrast to Doyle's US National Bank right across the street from 1917, which is itself a gorgeous building; it's also across the street from yet another bank Doyle designed, the original Bank of California, from 1925. As a side note, this leads me to think about what a career Doyle had, with these and multiple buildings being commissioned one after another in such a small area. That opportunity to create such an impact on a new and growing city is just not something most of us could ever hope to experience in our profession today.

 


Union Bank Tower (Brian Libby)

 

What is your favorite building outside of Portland and besides any you’ve worked on?

The first project in my second-year studio class was to select a building and examine it in depth, culminating in a carefully composed series of ink-washed plans and details. I don’t recall if we had a list to choose from, or how I exactly landed on this choice, but I studied Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel in Florence, Italy from 1443. 

Nestled in the shadows of the adjacent church of Santa Croce, the chapel is a bit quirky and I related to it instantly. It was my first introduction to learning about “real architecture” and it was a fascinating study in the use of perfect geometries to shape an irregular space. So in response to the question, it’s a favorite building of mine in the sense that it was the gateway into the world of architectural design and historical research. I hadn’t ever given much thought to how a building design was achieved. It was an exciting day when I was able to visit in person during my year abroad. It was like a celebrity sighting on the street; the famous person always looks a little bit smaller and somehow disappointingly normal, with their shopping bags or ripped jeans. When I visited the chapel on a warm fall afternoon I was somehow taken aback at first that it was a part of a bustling urban scene, with pigeons and tourists flocking around, and not a perfectly staged, serene vignette as I had always seen it in books. But it was also a joy to be there, to experience how the activity quieted down when you stepped inside the volume of interior space and how it still felt vital after over 500 years. A good friend who was with me that day gave me a sketch of it which now hangs in my dining room.

 


Pazzi Chapel, Florence (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Is there a local architect or firm you think is unheralded or deserves more credit?

This is a tough one. There seem to be a few major firms that get a lot of attention and many of the smaller or residential-focused firms get overlooked. Or, more likely, they just don’t have a large marketing department. I would love to learn more about what some of the smaller fish in the pond have to offer.

What would you like to see change about Portland’s built environment in the long term?

It’s no secret that Portland has been growing and changing rapidly in recent years. The lack of affordable housing and the social safety nets available for those in need are becoming more and more apparent. I would hope that the long-range vision for Portland includes a focus on working with communities to create a revitalization of close-in, affordable options and investment in improving transit opportunities. As a daily MAX rider I often look out on the river when crossing the Steel Bridge and wonder why we don’t have a water taxi. To be honest, being from a desert town I don’t know much about boats. I also realize a taxi system would not be simple infrastructure or a financially easy thing to achieve, but the impact on waterfront development, tourism, and everyday public interaction with the river could be significant and really fun.

How would you rate the performance of local government like Prosper Portland or the development and planning bureaus?

Beyond basic interactions with the city permit office and design reviews, I have worked on several projects that were part of the PDC Storefront Improvement Program and most recently with PDC (now Prosper Portland) and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability on the development of the New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District Guidelines adopted in 2017. I appreciate the continued efforts and deep concern these groups have in the shared desire to make Portland the best city it can be, with a focus on positive actions to promote an equitable economy. We’ve all experienced the challenges of long waits for permits and other aspects of bureaucracy but I believe intentions are in the right place.

Who is a famous architect you’d like to see design a building in Portland?

This is another tricky one. I’d like to ignore the question and repeat my interest in seeing what local firms have to offer, but that being said I see how having an outside architect providing fresh eyes can be valuable. I think Snøhetta is really doing some interesting work and I’m looking forward to seeing their local projects come to fruition – the James Beard Public Market, the OMSI master plan, and the Willamette Falls Project. I admire the way these projects are embracing tricky, underutilized sites and bringing them back to life with a reimagined purpose.

 


Renderings of proposed Willamette Falls Riverwalk (Snøhetta)

 

Name something besides architecture (sneakers, furniture, umbrellas) you love the design of.

I’d say one is shoes. I’m not much into fashion as a trend but if I find a pair of shoes or boots I like I’m extremely loyal and will wear them until they fall apart. For example, I have had a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars in constant rotation since the fourth grade.  It’s just an iconic shoe.  Also, a well-designed shoe doesn’t always cost a lot, and an expensive shoe isn’t necessarily comfortable. I think buildings are the same. I’d rather shuffle around in a comfortable, well-worn house then tiptoe around materials I’m afraid to touch.

I’m also very particular about silverware. I think it affects the meal and If it feels wrong I just can’t handle it (all puns intended).

What are three of your all-time favorite movies?

If we take favorite to mean “watched a million times without getting tired of it”, my top picks would include the original Star Wars trilogy, The Princess Bride, and Disney’s animated Robin Hood. I’m also a big fan of anything involving The Muppets. On a design-related note, the recent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve seen in a long time. Even if superheroes aren’t your thing, I highly recommend it.

 

 

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Centennial Mills (Brian Libby)

 

BY BRIAN LIBBY

Over the past 19 years, the City of Portland's caretaking of one of the most historic sites in town, Centennial Mills, has unfortunately been a comedy of errors. It's time to break the cycle of failed deals that have allowed this irreplaceable piece of Oregon history to crumble.

As I wrote about in a recent Portland Tribune column, the City of Portland and its development agency, Prosper Portland, have spent many years now trying to shoehorn new development onto this historic site, only to break up with the developers it hand-picked three different times.

Each breakup had its reasons. Some were related to the overall state of the economy, particularly the Great Recession. Starting in 2000 there was also the presence of the horse paddock for Portland Police Bureau's Mounted Patrol Unit onsite, which was supposed to be temporary but wound up staying for some 15 years, compromising visions for redevelopment. But the biggest problem, I'd argue, is that we've been trying to add too much development to a place where it's hard to make that happen.

As explained on the Centennial Mills page of the Prosper Portland website, the property "was acquired to fulfill the River District Urban Renewal Plan’s stated objective of enhancing the waterfront with public open spaces and to facilitate connectivity between the River District, the Willamette River and the Willamette River Greenway." So far, so good. Yet later on that same page, the agency goes on to explain of the latest efforts, "The conceptual program includes extension of the greenway trail, public access through the site, mixed-income housing, and renovation of the iconic Flour Mill building."

Notice the difference between the two quotes. While they both mention public open space and connectivity, only the second quote mentions mixed-income housing. If I'm not mistaken, some of the previous agreements Prosper Portland has come to with Costa Mesa's Lab Holding, Portland's Harsch Investment Properties and San Antonio's Lynd Opportunity Partners also included offices. Clearly the city needs lots of housing, so I don't want to belittle consideration of housing at the Centennial Mills site. If it could be made to happen as part of the Flour Mill (the last remaining structure) restoration, that would perhaps be the best outcome.

Yet whether it's housing or offices, after so many years of failed city-and-private-developer marriages at Centennial Mills, I can't help but feel that these additions are part of the problem.

Centennial Mills is both centrally located and isolated. Because Naito Parkway and the railroad act as a barrier between the site and the Pearl District, it's hard to get foot traffic there without a pedestrian bridge, which was called for in previous Pearl District master planning efforts but — what do you know? — never materialized even as the condos  appeared in rapid succession. It's also difficult to build underground parking at Centennial Mills given the riverfront soil, and reserving a large swath of the site for surface parking or a parking garage is not exactly the best kind of high-density urban development where people want to be. And there are big costs involved with renovating the existing Flour Mill building or remaining Warehouse E.

It's worth stopping for a moment to make note of the demolitions that have already happened. In September 2016, the Prosper Portland Board approved Resolution 7208 by a one-vote margin, authorizing demolition of the Feed Mill building. That's the gut-punch that is still painful, because it irrevocably changed the mini-skyline of Centennial Mills. It was a large twin to the remaining Flour Mill building. Everything else is a more common type of one or two-story warehouse.

Instead of hoping the fourth time this approach of partnering with a private developer on a mix of renovations and new construction will be successful, I'd like to see a substantial change in the entire vision. I think we should treat the Centennial Mills site as a ruin and turn it into a park.

The existing Flour Mill building is now the crown jewel of this industrial wasteland, and thankfully it is structurally sound. Unlike the Feed Mill building, which had sunk several inches on one side, the Flour Mill rests firmly upon driven piles. That makes it a candidate for architectural renovation. In theory, you don't want a habitable building to go to waste. And if you spend that money to renovate, it needs to become commercial or residential space of some kind, or at least some kind of tenant you can charge rent and use that to pay for the renovation.  And once you have that renovated building down there where people live or work, you need parking and you need for it not to be so isolated, so you start to imagine development around it.

In other words, the idea of renovating the Flour Mill building is how this notion of redeveloping the whole site (and then seeing the plans fall apart) gets started. But what if, after 20 years, that structurally sound building just wasn't meant to be occupied anymore? What if its role is really what it's already been doing: standing there and gently decaying as a way of preserving the authenticity of its history?

I remember touring the Flour Mill building several years ago and finding its decayed interior absolutely incredible. But it was the patina of the whole thing that made it so. In reality the building felt quite, quite decayed: the province of raccoons and bats more than that of humans. Yet there was undeniable beauty there, inside and out. Renovate it and all that patina is gone.

Filling that Flour Mill building with employees or residents is a nice idea in theory if it serves the important history of this site (usually empty buildings always get demolished). But since three failed development deals have shown us the difficulties of turning that site into a high-density place, it's time to re-affirm what has become lost along the way: that the history of that site is far more important than the economic activity we generate there.

After all, Centennial Mills practically built Portland, given that it was wheat, not timber, which became Oregon's biggest cash crop and even more than timber led economically to Portland becoming a metropolis.

 


Centennial Mills in 2013, before the demolitions (Brian Libby)

 

If we were to assure the Flour Mill building and its iconic rooftop water tower were structurally sound, we could basically seal it off and let it stand as a ruin that honors Oregon's industrial and agricultural history while giving us all the pubic waterfront access that's of specified importance in that River District Urban Renewal Plan.

There are already numerous precedents in other cities where a former industrial site has been turned into greenspace, with the relics becoming the attraction, almost like public art. There's Gas Works Park in Seattle, 19 waterfront acres including the ruins of a gasification plant. In Toronto there's Sugar Beach, another reclaimed industrial area.

It's also worth noting that creating a park was one of the options included in the Centennial Mills Framework Plan that was adopted by City Council in 2006.

I understand that this suggestion is coming at a time when Portland's parks budget is already being cut substantially. And if you consider Centennial Mills merely to be part of the Pearl District, perhaps it's arguable that this affluent neighborhood which already has the block-sized small parks Jamison Square and Tanner Springs as well as The Fields across from Centennial Mills doesn't deserve still more greenspace. Yet this is still central riverfront space that could easily be accessed by people in North and Northeast Portland as well as by people in the central city. It could easily be considered an unofficial extension of Tom McCall Waterfront Park, being only about a half mile downstream. It's also just across the Broadway Bridge from where the Albina Vision proposes adding a high-density neighborhood; a few minutes' walk from the Rose Quarter and one could be at this riverfront park.

Maybe jettisoning Centennial Mills from their portfolio would actually do Prosper Portland some good. The agency seems to want to focus on one big central-city property redevelopment at a time. While Centennial Mills and the Zidell Yards developments sit empty after failed agreements with developers, the former US Postal Service site along NW Broadway is moving forward. Since our city government seems to be continually low on funds for a number of basic services and initiatives, there is only so much public money to go around. If we can't even maintain our existing parks properly, why would we add a costly industrial redevelopment to that when a private developer would be all too happy to take on that cost?

Yet we've already gone down this road. Three times. It has already cost us the accelerated deterioration of much of the site.

To make it a ruins park, we'd admittedly have to go even further and do the very thing I've cried foul over: tear down some more architecture. But the remaining structures other than the Flour Mill building are of lesser historical value.

If budget for making a Centennial Mills ruins park is  the problem, given the historic nature of the site and its riverfront potential as a greenway, I don't see why there couldn't be a public fundraising component to building the park, just as there were for efforts to build now-cherished public spaces like Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Speaking of Pioneer Courthouse Square, which we've been celebrating this year because of the Architectural Heritage Center's excellent exhibit devoted to architect Will Martin, it might be useful to remember the naysayers that nearly prevented that landmark from being built. It took a lot of public pressure to remove a parking garage from that site, and to convince opponents like the development community and then-mayor Frank Ivancie that a public square was the right course of action. To become itself, Pioneer Courthouse Square had to fight off parking and development. That's the same battle Centennial Mills would have to fight.

I realize that it's easy for someone like me to suggest bold changes when I don't have to deal with real-world strictures that constrain our choices at a place like Centennial Mills. But that's my job, you know? I want to see us treat that Flour Mill building as an icon, giving it room to breathe in a park setting that invites the public to linger there, attracted as much to the riverfront as to its history. This is part of a larger multi-generational story: of cities reclaiming their heretofore working industrial waterfronts for public use. Prosper Portland and the River District Urban Renewal Plan have it right in favoring the greenway. We're just getting too caught up thinking about leasable new square footage there, when that's not what this place wants to be. But there's still time to avoid going down the same path a fourth time and instead to change course.

 

 

 

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