I serve on the board of the Oregon chapter of DoCoMoMo_US. Could not be more excited to share our ongoing efforts to document the modern resources (buildings only currently) of Oregon. Bit of background on DoCoMoMo_Oregon: A non-profit dedicated to promoting the interest, education, and advocacy of the architecture, art, landscape, and urban design of the Modern Movement. We offer interactive programs including, walking-tours of our states modern movement buildings, sites, and neighborhoods, as well as educational lectures led by nationally recognized architectural historians, architects, and preservationists. And here is our on-going inventory you can help us shape: Inventory of Modern Buildings. A few of my favorites are highlighted above.
Looking at efforts to repair and utilize some of Portland’s recent past architectural resources.
DoCoMoMo_Oregon, a local chapter of DoCoMoMo_US, is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the interest, education, and advocacy of the architecture, art, landscape, and urban design of the Modern Movement. Recently the Board voiced concerns for the type of alterations proposed for the late modern (post modern!) PacWest Center designed by Hugh Stubbins & Associates / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which underwent a Design Advice. John Russell, the original developer of the project who chose Hugh Stubbins as the architect, from a shortlist that included Philip Johnson and Minoru Yamasaki, provided testimony that agreed with the design team that the retail in the building isn’t currently working, but that the building’s design isn’t the major contributor. Overall, the Design Commission encouraged the design team to treat the PacWest Center like a historic building, and use the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards as an approach for the renovation.
The Koin Tower, designed by ZGF Partnership in 1984, is one of the most prominent buildings in Portland’s downtown rising sky-line, and an example of Post Modern architecture. It is Post Modern with whimsical lines and historical references to Gothic, Spanish, and Deco architectural characteristics. (King, 106) However, unlike the Post Modern Portland Building (interiors designed by ZGF), the Koin Tower has been accepted for its architectural whimsy in a place with a known tag line, “Keep Portland Weird.”
And on a smaller scale that truly connects to placemaking, the Lovejoy Fountain Pavilion designed by Charles Moore in 1962 as part of Lawrence Halprin’s fountain sequence was thoughtfully restored in 2012.
Appreciating the Recent Past
So, has Portland come to appreciate its architectural heritage from the recent past? While these three examples offer a glimpse of optimism towards the maintenance and rehabilitation of architecture from the recent past, there is still an uphill battle towards the preservation and rehabilitation of Post Modern, Modern, and historic architectural resources. This is not an argument to save every resource, but it’s our responsibility to our present and future communities to have places rich in architectural resources from different movements of history- architecture rich in diversity. For architectural diversity contributes to our place making, culture, and identity. Let’s Keep Portland Architecture Weird by both adding to and maintaining and rehabilitating.
California modernism has long been generally associated with architecture & design from Southern California. However, Northern California has a vital architectural history that contributes to California modernism. Pierluigi Serraino successfully demonstrates this in: NorCalMod. Icons of Northern California Modernism. The author rediscovers the complexity and richness of Northern California modernism that for many in the Bay Area and surrounding communities is hidden in plain sight.
Can hardly believe it is already (almost!) Halloween. Rather than focus on home accessories and decorations- architecture with a pinch of macabre art is the focus of this post. From black façade's, real American ghost towns, to a vernacular of architecture destined to be haunted, these structures will get you in the Halloween spirit. Black façade's are here to stay despite their current trend status. Although mainly depicted on modern & contemporary architecture, Victorian and Mid-Century architecture with black façades are just as alluring. Regarding Victorian architecture, have you ever wondered why this vernacular of architecture is most commonly associated with the ghastly and gruesome? From real life to Hollywood produced horrors, Victorian architecture seems to be the perfect backdrop and, Art Historian Sarah Burns might have the answer to why. Ghost towns are a real thing across the globe. I have visited a few in the states, and even if they are technically not haunted, there is something unsettling in abandoned towns or neighborhoods (hello Detroit). Finally, the art history lover in me couldn’t resist the Getty’s latest post on Illuminated Manuscripts that highlight how death and meditations on death were a daily presence during the Middle Ages through the Medieval periods. BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
With Halloween upon us, it's time to showcase five stunning works of architecture with modern black façades. These building envelopes are far from ordinary, some worthy of a scream! 1. A building envelope with monochromatic cladding. 2. Glowing glass home with black cladding. A modern take on a cabin in the woods. 3. Historic goes modern in a Rotterdam reconstruction by Studio Rolf.fr 4. Black wooden louvers for a single residential design in Japan. 5. A stacked module house with a perforated façade in the shape of a tree. BOOOOOOOOOOO!
Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and built between 1960 and 1961 is a premier jewel of International Style modernism in the city. The structure consists of glass and aluminum, with a non-load-bearing curtain wall cube, and a central ovular concrete seating area within. It is a true engineering and architectural masterpiece that offers uninterrupted panoramic views of Portland from the seating area. The Veterans Memorial Coliseum is also a war memorial, with exterior sunken black granite walls inscribed with the names of veterans in gold paint.
At its completion it was the largest multipurpose facility in the Pacific Northwest. And a significant structure within the larger urban planning Rose Quarter Development project. In 2009 is was proposed to demolish the Coliseum to make way for a new sports facility. The city was almost successful in demolition, but the greater community of Portland, including architectural preservationists and historians, successfully applied for National Register of Historic Places status for the building. In 2011 it was placed in National Register.
Pietro Belluschi designed elegant modern residential (and commercial) architecture in the International Style. His materials used for residential designs were especially suited for the Pacific Northwest climate. Portland has a large concentration of Belluschi residences. They are functional, design-driven, and to this day contemporary in their timelessness.
Often overlooked, but not forgotten, is the German-born designer and close collaborator to Mies van der Rohe, Lilly Reich. She began her career by designing furniture and clothing, along with shop window display designs. In 1912, Lilly joined the Deutscher Werkbund, and in 1920 she became the organizations first female director. Through their shared involvement with the Deutscher Werkbund, Mies and Lilly became close design collaborators for several Deutscher Werkbund exhibitions. Throughout the 1920s & 1930s they collaborated on several projects, including furniture pieces often solely attributed to Mies.
Ezra Stoller is by far one of the most prolific photographers of mid-century modern architecture. His images capture the sheer magnitude of Modernism, while also celebrating the industry behind this influential era of our architectural legacy. These intoxicating black and white photographs have helped define the culture behind (or cultural memory) of such iconic structures as the Seagram Building, Marin County Civic Center, and the Salk Institute. The photos included for this Modern Monday post are some of my personal favorite Stoller photographs.
Buildings are physical representations of the social, economic, political, technological, and cultural climates of their eras of origin. Ultimately buildings represent our cultural heritage and our architectural history. However, mid-century modern era buildings are increasingly interpreted as antiquated architecture that is functionally obsolete and lacking use in today’s society. Our recent-past modern buildings are being labeled as “failed” or “useless” architecture. As a result, mid-century modern architecture is rapidly being demolished and replaced with newer sustainable structures believed to better represent our most current social and cultural ideals. Current architecture is believed to be far more aesthetically pleasing than their modern predecessors.
BFramed in the context of history, it can only follow that Brutalist buildings were going to be executed as formal monumental concrete structures that directly juxtapose (even challenge) their environments. But more often than not, the perspective of historic context is outnumbered by present aesthetic preference. For example, Prentice Women’s Hospital (Bertrand Goldberg) in Chicago, the Berkeley Art Museum (Mario Ciampi) in California, and several of Paul Rudolph’s brut beauties were technological and architectural triumphs of their time. However, the Brutalist buildings like other modern era buildings that rate low on the aesthetic-scale have been equally disregarded in their maintenance. The argument for demolition based on deficiencies caused by a lack of maintenance becomes all too convenient. The wide-spread demise of Brutalist civic and urban buildings is a demise of the ideologies behind the intent of the architecture and those housed within.
Aesthetics cannot be the pretext for significance or the preservation of architecture. Letting aesthetics judge value will strip our architectural history of some of the most influential and innovated examples of modern era architecture. In effect, we are killing, and ultimately denying claim to, a portion of our architectural history. There is value in the perspective of context and value in re-using and re-imagining modern era architecture. If aesthetic preference continues to get in the way, what use is there for the architect or an architectural legacy?
Preservation of their natural surroundings and composition of natural (locally sourced too) materials set these timber residences above the rest. Located on the Vindö island in the Stockholm archipelago, Sweden is a wooden holiday retreat amongst dramatic topography. The materials are predominately related to local building traditions. It is a dynamic timber residence with a painted black exterior, with natural tones throughout the interior. A timber and glass residence located in The Netherlands, Villa V is semi-positioned within the slope of the hill in which it resides. Only natural materials were used for building composition, including a facade of Waxedwood sustainable timer and veneered plywood for the interior. A viennese boat house right at the waters edge composed of timber and copper, and meant to naturally weather and further complement each other over time. The facade appears to be a single cube when not in use. However, it is dramatically transformed when its doors open, exposing various internal compartments.
I enjoy mixing traditional and modern pieces in a space. And often my favorite room in homes is the living room - a perfect space to mix and match. Whether the space acts as a neutral backdrop to the furniture or the opposite; mixing traditional with the modern results in comfortable (perhaps bohemian) luxury with clean lines, neutral tones, and vivid patterns. A home in Russia features a timber interior as a backdrop for a neutral sofa and patterned textiles. Fergana by Patricia Urquiola for Moroson is an entirely wood framed sofa with comfortable cushions. The large cushions display delicate weavings which draw on traditional and modern techniques. The sofa is intended to be placed as an island in a space, rather than pushed up against a wall. The Goddard Sofa is a fabulous example of combining traditional and modern elements that result in a contemporary shape with a refined feel. True understated luxury. Or the Abel sofa from BDDW. Impeccable craftsmanship with blackened cast bronze legs and wool herringbone fabric. All of these sofas embrace traditional and modern aesthetics.
Cold weather and an abundance of holiday food and drinks makes it hard to get out of bed early during the week, let alone the weekend. I have compiled an eclectic mix of bedrooms that reenforce the art of lounging about, cuddling, and most of all staying cozy. Some of these bedrooms act as a backdrop to its surrounding architecture, while others showcase covet-worthy bedding and textiles, or how to incorporate dark walls perfectly. Now if only brunch could be delivered and served right to ones bedroom.
Timber has long been one of my favorite materials used in design, art, and architecture. Granted, I tend to lean more towards the material in furniture, and leave concrete, steel, and glass to architecture. Lately there have been some beautiful architectural designs showcasing timber. Bernard Tschumi Architects created a breathtaking visitor center in the French countryside. The cylindrical building features an ornate herringbone facade. D House by Lode Architecture uses the material as a textured exterior envelope, and for several interior design elements. Swatt Miers Architects designed a stunning modern home in Sausalito, California perfect for taking-in the sun and surrounding landscape. Peninsula house by Watson Architecture + Design is an example of blurring the lines between the exterior and interior. All of these architectural designs showcase timber in all its glory.
Modern minimalistic architecture has been catching my eye lately. And surprise, surprise, those designed with concrete, wood, and glass curtainwalls to push the architectural form forward are especially compelling. The wood paneling on the exterior of the Sentosa House by Nicholas Burns brings warmth to its concrete foundation, and helps connect it to the beautiful surrounding landscape. The stunning Dutch Bridge house by 123DV invokes mid-century modern architecture and design. And, the Icelandic Brekkuskogur Cottages designed by Arkibullan Arkitektar are breathtaking in how angular, but organic they look and feel.
I love the versatility of wood for both interiors and exteriors. Depending upon the type of wood, if its finished or left untreated, its intended use, the structure, furniture, or product composed it comes to be, wood is one of my favorite materials. And, its a great medium to bring warmth and texture to office design and architecture. Along those lines, plywood has been of special interest recently. I enjoy how for such an informal type of material it can be transformed and dressed up from storage, full wall sliding doors, to exterior siding.
Continuing along my current mode of thinking - nesting while its cold outside, interiors that promote gathering, celebrating, lingering, and eventually curling up, are where I would like to be. There is nothing like a comfy couch, full dinning room, or cozy bedroom. These photographers (professional + novice alike) have captured these spaces and made the objects within almost appear tangible.
Winter weather invokes more time spent at home. Comfy cabins. Warmth. Fires. Hot toddies on the couch while relaxing. Just a few of my favorite things. These photos of beautiful homes inside and out, emphasize the joys of nesting while the weather outside becomes cooler and darker- or in Portland's case continuously gray from drizzling clouds.