Earlier this week I met Jeff Belluschi, grandson of Pietro, the patron saint of Portland architecture. (Jeff was kind enough to seek out a copy of the photo atop this website, which I’m enormously humbled by.)
Jeff acts a kind of caretaker for his grandfather’s architectural legacy, keeping watch over Belluschi buildings. He lamented one owner of a Belluschi home who painted over the natural cedar siding the architect favored. He also explained how his grandfather favored gravel driveways for their Zen-like quality (that sound of crackling rocks) and how they can mark an important transition between public world and the privacy of home. Most of all, Jeff talked about Pietro as a renaissance man who loved painting and the outdoors as much as architecture.
One historic tidbit Jeff also brought when we met was a copy of a letter that Pietro Belluschi received on March 11, 1953 from legendary architect Richard Neutra, known best for his ‘Case Study’ houses in Los Angeles as well as the Lovell House and Kaufman House.
The letter (with Neutra's underlining) goes as follows:
This is written in bed, in a hotel in Eugene, in fact in the Eugene Hotel. Yesterday some boys took me to your Presbyterian church in Cottage Grove. It is really wonderful!! I talked with the Pastor and he is a happy client. The whole thing makes me happy although I am only a bystander – and not particularly a churchgoer. It is great what sincere architecture can do to a soul! There is perhaps no other profession like this. Often we have – I have – no time to think about it. But here I lie in bed and think. Everybody loves you here I have talked to. This is as it should be. An architect should be loved by the people and he should have deep sympathy for them. You are and you have. I am deeply glad to know you Pietro, and to have had a chance to see this third church of yours which makes me feel so good – with its warm earnestness, and with this inscription rock! I stood with the pastor in the sun under the still wintery trees. One day I hope to see you while I’m yet alive. Everything good to you.
Kudos to Jeff Belluschi for keeping the flame of his grandfather, to whom Portlanders still feel an enormous degree of affection, marvel, and gratitude.