Saturday, November 18, 2006

Portland architecture debate

The PortlandTribune stirred up controversy with its October survey of local architects' and designers' most beautiful and ugliest Portland buildings. The select architects the Tribune surveyed made some very unpopular choices:

Tribune Most Beautiful Buildings:

1. Robert and Ann Sacks home, 2281 N.W. Glisan St.

hawkeye-sacks building
Originally uploaded by jege.

a.k.a. Dosha's NW Portland salon. (This is such an unpopular/unrememberable building that I couldn't find any photos on Flickr or Google image. I think I found one photo using the really cool Flickr maps feature. Dosha has a photo on their website.) I'm sure it's a functional and well-designed building, but I wouldn't call it beautiful.

2. Portland Art Museum, Hoffman Wing

(Again, this building is so unrememberable that I can't find pics to link to.) I actually like the simple design of the Portland Art Museum's main building. However, I'm not even sure what the Hoffman Wing is. Their website said it was added in the 1960s.

The museum's main building has always been dwarfed by the huge and more impressive Egyptian-ish Shriner's building next door. Now that the Shriner's building is part of the museum, the museum has had to install signs to remind people that the entrance is located at the smaller building next door.

3. U.S. Bancorp Tower

pig bink
Originally uploaded by travis ezell.

Although it appears to be just another blocky Portland office building, I do like the pink tower's angles and reflective copper windows and it is a major feature of the skyline. The former US Bank headquarters is less impressive in person though.

4. Belmont Lofts, 3442 S.E. Belmont St.

Belmont Lofts
Originally uploaded by sleevelesshearts.

This is a nice, functional building. However, like the NW Dosha building, it's not very rememberable. It looks like a throwback to the 1950/60s block buildings. Also, I have to wonder how long that wood exterior will last.

5. Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse

Originally uploaded by david owen.

I do like the federal courthouse. Unlike a commercial all-glass office tower, this federal building looks solid and imposing, but also optimistic and futuristic like it plans to be around for the next millennium.

Tribune Most Ugliest Buildings:

1. Wells Fargo Center

Wells Fargo Center
Originally uploaded by

I agree. Portland tallest and universally disliked building dominated the city's skyline for much of the 1970s/1980s. Portland needs just a few more tall buildings to hide this zebra behind.

2. Portland Building

The Portland Building
Originally uploaded by Daly & Daly.

I like this building. I know it's a weird and controversial building, but the City should get credit for trying something different.

1000 Broadway

1000 Broadway
Originally uploaded by JoeCollver.

Again, I disagree with the supposed 'experts'. This is a great addition to the skyline and a pedestrian-friendly building.

Marriott-Downtown Waterfront

Originally uploaded by pdxjeff.

While I would not call this building pretty, I think it should receive credit for being shaped differently than the series of block buildings surrounding it.

Rose Garden Arena

Rose Garden
Originally uploaded by rfduck.

I wouldn't call the Rose Garden Arena ugly, but not beautiful either. It's just like any other arena: big. Also, the artwork thrown around the building like the unbuilt fort and the crown are just pointless.

The Tribune's articles generated a much-deserved outcry from readers, so it ran an article about readers' comments.

Readers' Favorite Buildings

Multnomah County Central Library

Central Branch
Originally uploaded by jensect.

The Central Library's design is classic and functional. In fact, when the building was recently gutted, the floor plans were left relatively unchanged -- at least in the building's public areas.

Jackson Tower

Jackson Tower Portland, OR2
Originally uploaded by Seth Gaines.

I like this building -- although the lighting is a little gaudy. I'm not sure if the its clock even works.

Fox Tower

Fox tower
Originally uploaded by samgrover.

The Fox Tower is still too new to know if it's styling will endure, but I like how it fits into the skyline and it space age features.

Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion
Originally uploaded by lindn.

While I agree that the Pittock is beautiful, I think of it as a home -- not a building.

Dekum Building

Dekum Portland, OR4
Originally uploaded by Seth Gaines.

This is probably one of the overlooked Portland buildings, but its a great building.

In addition to the above buildings, here are some of my own picks for beautiful buildings:

Norm's Additional Beautiful Building Picks:

McMenamins' Ringler Annex

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

I love this tiny, triangular building.

First Congregational UCC

First Congretional Church
Originally uploaded by Aphex Twin.

Most older churches have an unfair advantage when competing against other buildings in beauty. First Congregational has the tallest church bell tower, lovely stain glass, and a great circular interior layout.

Portland City Hall

City Hall Portland, OR2
Originally uploaded by Seth Gaines.

I'm not sure what the architechual style of this building is, but it looks perfect as a city hall.

Justice Center

Multnomah County Justice Center
Originally uploaded by XBearPDX.

Most people don't realize that this prominent building is not just a courthouse, but also the Portland Police HQ and county jail. What I love about the building is how well it hides it purpose.

Telegram Building

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

I'm not sure what the name of this building is now that it's been remodeled. I think the developers are still trying to find an anchor tenant since the intended tenant, Princeton Athletic Club, went defunct.

Union Station

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

It's amazing to think that this grand train palace was once a major gateway to the city like the airport is now.

Blitz-Weinhard Brewery

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

The developers did a great job keeping this industrial building intact -- even keeping two huge tanks that I think may have been converted into rooms. Although, I miss the brewery's smell.

Benson Hotel

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

Oddly, the telephone company purposely designed their building behind the hotel to match the hotel, while the hotel's own later addition looks like a terrible, stylized modern version. So the adjoining building that most resembles and compliments the hotel is actually a boarded-up telecom.

Bishop's House

Originally uploaded by sweber4507.

Hat tip: Jack Bog's Blog

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