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 It is Post Modern with whimsical lines and historical references to Gothic, Spanish, and Deco architectural characteristics.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.
Portland, and Oregon on the whole, has a substantial presence of Post-World War II architecture. One of the more prominent mid-century works is the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Portland is also home for a post-modern work of architecture, Michael Grave’s designed Portland Public Service Building. Locally, several mid-century modern, and especially post-modern, works of architecture are not held in high esteem from the design community through City leadership. Yet, the City has approved locally designed mix-use developments that directly reference mid-century and post-modern design aesthetics. When these new developments enter their middle age, will they too be called obsolete, tacky, and ugly?
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.