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val

"what the Commission was asking for could easily have been accomplished without fundamentally compromising the architecture."

I think this comment sums up the situation nicely.

Frank Dufay

Wasn't it Apple's folks that failed to return to the Historical Landmarks Commission?

It sounds, from the above, they weren't very far apart and what they thought appropriate.

kd

Apple has a design aesthetic which they are willing to make adjustments to until it becomes compromised. That business sense is what got them to where they are today as a company.

And they're not idiots, they felt the new location was a great fit for their business in the City of Portland.

The committee should have been familiar with the work they've done in places like Seattle, WA and now New York - buildings that attract attention, add to the fabric of the city, and grow jobs (it'd have been nice to have the additional good jobs here).

So you have a situation where a commission is designing awnings for you awnings.

Do they basically build this design in other cities too? They have perhaps, but the traditional styled Pottery Barn down the street isn't all 'Portland'd Up' - looks just like all the others that I've seen. It's retail branding, and a business should get to have that for themselves.

No, this was about how contemporary the building looked. If they'd introduced a Pottery Barn style no doubts it would be there.

I'm thinking of modern architecture in places with some historical buildings as well. To enforce a continued need to design backwards in order to get approval is just wrong. It's not progressive in a city which prides itself on forward thinking.

Portland, Think Different! And we'll find design that excites our lives and inspires our future.

Frank Dufay

Do they basically build this design in other cities too? They have perhaps, but the traditional styled Pottery Barn down the street isn't all...

That's part of the problem...its not ONE store, it is precedent setting, the same way the Pottery barn store is.

It's retail branding, and a business should get to have that for themselves.

What's the point of having a Historic District if any business can build its brand however it wants?

I'm thinking of modern architecture in places with some historical buildings as well...

I'd recommend you to 42nd street in New York, where the "historic" Great White Way has been conquered by the most garish, awful, corporate branding ever assembled together on what was one fine block.

kd

It's easy to kill modern design with your way of thinking. Don't forget that Pietro Belluschi built the Portland Art Museum in a modern style, you think that wrecked the neighborhood? Or his Equitable Building which is a beautiful modern building amongst some very historic/traditional structures. (In stainless steel, no less.)

Certainly there are places where modern wasn't implemented well, but there are many more places where traditional design has just deadened the life of a city.

Such blanket statements aren't thoughtful responses to growing a city and evolving design, they're NIMBY. Plain and simple.

Justin

Seriously. Are you saying that Portland turned away a business because of FREAKING Awnings! They can't compromise on AWNINGS!!!

Way to keep that unemployment high?

agustin

Is this truly the whole story--Apple refused/didn't want to add canopies? Am I the only one having a hard time believing this?

I can't get there; there must be something more substantial. Companies don't walk away from sounds investments because of small details like this.

Robert Smelser

Portland resident and Mac developer Cabel Sasser has some interesting remarks at this location:

http://www.cabel.name/2006/07/apple-store-that-wasnt.html

Just thought some of you would like reading it.

Frank Dufay

(your comments) aren't thoughtful responses to growing a city and evolving design, they're NIMBY. Plain and simple.

I'll repeat, either a Historic District designation means something, or it doesn't. While some folks may like what I consider a pretty cold, sterile tarted-up box --with a big logo in front-- the question is how does it play in the historic district, not whether its a cool building that could be built anywhere.

This isn't to argue against modernism in the historic district...something starkly modern could play well if designed in the context of its neighbors. Holst' attitude seems to be that they don't care about context. As developer Randy Rappaport famously told Holst in my neighborhood: there is no context, build a "spaceship." That single family homeowners living next door might object to having a "spaceship" built...you can call it NIMBY, but I think the development community (and design community) has a broader responsibility than building everything out to maximum "entitlements", eyes glued to the bottom line.

Back to the Apple Building, whether you like it or don't, it can (and will) go anywhere. It's design has no connection to anything in this NW neighborhood, including the sidewalk and passing pedestrians who confront its tall empty walls.

It's a box with a logo. The apple logo somehow makes it cool. Trade that logo for a "VW" logo, and stick cars behind those oversized showroom windows in front, and what have you got?

truth

So Brian what happened to the link to capel's blog.
He seemed to know what was really going on in the whole process, and clearly articulated what actually happened at the meetings he attended.
Meanwhile Frank Dufay is allowed to continually blast individuals and companies for a slight he felt from another project, in another neighborhood, on the other side of the river. Frank get over it. Stop your crying.
If you had any idea of reality you would know that this Apple project has nothing to do with building to "maximum entitlments". In contrast the Landmarks Comittee would have much preferred that this building be bigger. And if you actually attended the Landmarks hearing you would have known that. I'm tired of the vocal minority telling everyone how it should be or what they think to be true.
Frank what was the last time you developed a piece of property? With the cost of land in the urban core, and the skyrocketing construction costs, it is nearly impossible not to max out a site and still have a return on investment.
That's right a return on investment. That is the reality of many built projects, wether they be housing, office or retail. Do you think people would build, or banks would loan without some return. Do you work for free? Would you allow for your employer to lower your salary in order to create something "better" for your company or community?

Please.

Brian

To the previous poster identified as "truth", you make some completely valid points, but I don't like your hostile, accusing tone. I bend over backwards to make clear in my posts that I'm not omniscient. I'm trying to start a healthy dialogue, and along the way I develop some opinions of my own, some of which turn out right and some that don't. It sounds like you have some worthwhile things to say about the direction this Apple conversation has gone. I urge you to articulate yourself with more civility so that your comments can in the future be taken more seriously.

truth

Brian,
I apologize for the perceived lack of civility within my last post. I can assure you that I have great respect for what you are doing and for the forum that your blog provides as well as for the fact that you too have an opinion.
Unfortunately I don't not always have the same respect for untuths that others write. And in this type of forum it is extemely difficult for anyone to decipher was is propaganda and what is real.
That coupled with my own perception that Capel's website had been censored (which you have the option of doing) allowed my emotional reaction.
I will do my best to control myself.

Brian

Thanks. I'm probably too touchy anyway. I just want everyone to play nice.

val

"I'm tired of the vocal minority telling everyone how it should be or what they think to be true."

Why is there the impression that those opposed to the destruction of historic districts and/or historic buildings, and/or neighborhood character in general are a "vocal minority"? I've seen this phrase posted here as well as in the DJC interview with Randy Rapaport.

Can anyone prove that we are a minority? If so I'd like to see the data. Besides, even if we are a minority, does it really matter? Aren't we allowed to voice our opinion? As in any meaningful discussion all sides should be represented, or has our society truly become fascist?

truth

Isn't it more of a fascist society when the local government is telling a property owner what a building on their own property can look like.
Zoning should determine use, allowable area, building height, not appearance or "style". That's were this becomes subjective, and that's where I believe the Landmarks Commision overstepped their bounds.
If Apple's "brand architecture" had more cornices and and a pitched roof we wouldn't be having this discussion. See Williams Sonoma Home for example. The same "brand architecture" but their consumer just happens to be of a different demographic.

val

"Zoning should determine use, allowable area, building height, not appearance or "style"."

So, if your next door neighbor wanted to build a house out of dog crap that would be ok with you as long as it met height standards and didn't have a pitched roof? There is a line where property rights go too far. It would be a nightmare if everyone was allowed to build exactly what they wanted, wherever they wanted. Owning a piece of property or a building should always be - to some degree - about stewardship, not simply about "what's mine is mine and to hell with everyone else."

We have to look at the big picture.

truth

"So, if your next door neighbor wanted to build a house out of dog crap that would be ok with you as long as it met height standards and didn't have a pitched roof?"

Wow that's a good point Val.

But actually I don't belive the building code would allow for dog crap to be used. I don't think you could attain the proper shear values for wind loads, and it probably wouldn't be able to get enough insulation value either. Forget moisture protection or durability issues.

"There is a line where property rights go too far. It would be a nightmare if everyone was allowed to build exactly what they wanted, wherever they wanted."

I guess it would be a nightmare if we all had the right to say whatever we wanted as well.

I believe that you are blowing the point out of proportion. I have every right to build my modernist box next to your cottage bungalow.

I believe the big picture would show that this world, if not this city, is made up of a large and diverse collective of people with different tastes and preferences. Mine is just as valid as yours. But i'm not the one complaining about something I don't like. I'm the one argueing that we all have the right.
If you don't want my modernist box next to your craftsman, then you should have bought the land when it was for sale.

val

"i'm not the one complaining about something I don't like."

Earth to truth, that's exactly what you are doing, you're complaining about those who share opinions other than your own.

"I have every right to build my modernist box next to your cottage bungalow."

Not if you live in a historic district. That's part of the reason why they exist, to lessen the potential loss of historic character in a given area. If you don't want to follow the guidelines of a historic district then don't move there - plain and simple.

truth

Val, have you every been on NW 23rd here in Portland. Explain to me the Historic nature of the building to the north of the property in question! Also explain how the Ann Sacks building kitty coner from the property in question fits with the historic character of the neighborhood. Three stories tall glass box, with stainless steel mesh panels.
My arguement is not about a style of architecture. It's about providing a level playing field. I don't feel the HLC did that. Also explain why the Northwest Neighborhood committee, easily the most vocal and most difficult to please neighborhood group in the city provided their support for the project.
The historic district itself does NOT designate that a modern box can't be built, that's my point Val. And the HLC has even said so, trying to rationalize that there reasoning has nothing to do with it being modern. When in fact I belive it has everything to do with that, since none of their other arguements make sense. It basically allows the HLC to govern and allow only what it likes with nobody policing for justice.


Rich

"Owning a piece of property or a building should always be - to some degree - about stewardship, not simply about "what's mine is mine and to hell with everyone else."

I agree with you, Val. I've often thought that in our nation's ongoing conversation about freedom and responsibility the term "property rights" is more harmful than helpful, since it inevitably is equated with other rights that are, for good reason, more nearly absolute (e.g., right to vote, right to trial, right to speak out against the government).

Though I'm not sure whether I think the Landmark Commission's rejection of the Apple building was justified in this particular case, in general I see no reason why a property owner should be allowed to ignore the wider community's well-being and wishes in regard to how a piece of property is developed. Sometimes community standards might be dumb or petty or misguided, but we don't have to look around very much in this country or this city to realize that we're not even close to a tyranny of the majority when it comes to property development. Tons and tons of ugly stuff gets built that almost no one wants to look at. Capitalism pretty much rules. What you can buy, you're entitled to, and the community be damned.

To bring this all back to a good example, raised in other posts, of why we need design standards: consider the Rosefriend apartments. Why should the church that owns that property have the "right" to tear it down? Doesn't the church have a responsibility to preserve it, given the value that the property has for the community as a whole, and given that the church draws from the community for its membership, purpose and meaning?

The Rosefriend and the Park Blocks serve as a good examples of why we need design standards. Maybe the Apple-building controversy serves as a good example of the difficulty of setting standards that are appropriate. But we need standards nonetheless.

ws

Modernism in architecture can be very good, or it can be a simple excuse to provide structural support for the display of a purchase inducing logo. Or, it can be an excuse to save money by using concrete instead of better, more expensive materials that would be appropriate to the design or setting.

Thanks to someone having posted the following URL: http://www.cabel.name/2006/07/apple-store-that-wasnt.html ,I can say that I have seen an illustration of the proposed Apple on 23rd, and having seen it, it's not what I expected. Personally, I dont' like it. I would expect something better from Apple. It’s reasonable to expect that a builder, in this case Apple, familiar with the districts’ codes, would go beyond the fundamental need to construct something upon which to hang a logo, to actually attempt to create good architecture that in some way complements the best of the rest of the neighborhood.

Based on what you can tell from the illustration, Apple hasn’t done that. Instead of being white and luminescent, like a mac-mini, which is I might expect from Apple, the building just looks dark, block-like and monolithic. It’s not trying very hard to distinguish itself as architecture, complimentary or otherwise to that of the rest of 23rd Ave. In fact the present building on that site, excepting the ugly staircase, is a better, more faithful, upbeat representative of modernism.

If architectural design is truly distinguished, though contrary to the status quo, then it should probably be welcomed, however, 23rd Ave would probably be far inferior to what it is today if the neighborhood only screened new construction on the basis of “use, allowable area, building height”.

Apple doesn’t have to put up a striped canvas tent awning. They could use a nearly invisible horizontal glass canopy.

No one has ever offered anything to show that the HLC commission is curbing their judgement on orders from city hall, against the expressed values, interests, and wishes of people in the neighborhood. A lot of ordinary people have worked hard to specify the guidelines that the HLC uses in their decisions.

In fact, the question over whether Apple bailed out over requests by the HLC seem to be unsubstantiated rumors.

agustin

"In fact, the question over whether Apple bailed out over requests by the HLC seem to be unsubstantiated rumors."

I agree. And I also am having a dificult time with the suggestions that asking for canopies is a crazy idea or not in the purview of the HLC. Its a very standard request--something that Design Review typically requires as well. (And is anyone here anti-canopy? If you are, could you please make a compelling argument for that point of view?)

I also think the hyperbole about fascism is a bit of the top. I don't know how the HLC is set up, but if its anything like Design Review Commissioners (who are appointed volunteers from elected officials) then its exactly what democracies do--we elect representatives, they make up rules to govern us, and we follow them (mostly). Having a conversation about whether they are doing the right thing is natural enough, but calling it fascism... I don't get it.

Frank Dufay

Meanwhile Frank Dufay is allowed to continually blast individuals and companies for a slight he felt from another project, in another neighborhood...

I don't think I'm "blasting" anybody when I simply report what people say. And Randy Rappaport was very clear that neighbors with adjoining single-family homes did not provide any "context" and so he told Holst architects to design a "spaceship." And they did, with flashing lights and a metal exterior designed --and promised--to rust.

As for the "slight," a treasured neighborhood and historic landmark was bulldozed, the very last of the turn of the century farmhomes and carriage houses on Division. Both the current --and earlier-- neighborhood associations (and business association) strongly supported retaining this treasure.

Its gone, and we move on...but the "context" issue continues to play out elsewhere, as with the Apple Store, and the tower proposed for the Park Blocks. The "context" thing isn't just aesthetics, its how the building relates to the neighborhood. Is it welcoming, supportive, pedestrian-friendly?

If someone wants to argue that if you own a piece of land, its yours to do with as you will, that sounds sorta warm and fuzzy in a libertarian kind of way...but in the real world, translates into mediocrity and building on the cheap, and fails to recognize that we don't just build buildings, but communities. (And sometimes, we destroy them.)

I don't like much of what's on 23rd. It could, one day, be just a row of huge Pottery Barns, and other mall stores. That's what establishing design guidlines and a historic district attempts to address...but its a weak process, we don't even have a good inventory of our historic resources in this city, and I don't know how many times I've heard developers complain they can't, can't, absolutely can't do the project unless they develop every single square inch of available space. And then some. And so we let buildings like the Clinton in...and despite more than 2 dozen units, several retail stores, probably a restaurant, not a single parking space for visitors and customers with bicycles. There's no place for a delivery truck to deliver goods. No place for visitors and customers to park. The "neighborhood" will carve those amenities out of its existing "public" infrastructure...already short on parking, and delivery spaces.

None of us live in a bubble, none of what we do fails to touch and impact other folks around us. I don't care about your taste in food, clothes, wine, or women...but I do care about where I live, my investment in my life and property here, and, yeah, I care about my neighbors. I hope the Apple Store gets built; I hope, sincerely, the Clinton works out. But fundamental to that hope is seeing us not designing our future world in little cubes, on drawing boards, but being out there in the community, working together as a community.

val

Rich & Frank, well stated comments!

And by the way, if anyone is interested in knowing the actual boundaries of the Alphabet Historic District, they can be found at Portlandmaps.com. Under maps - zoning, there is a very long link to a map of the district and a listing of the addresses within the district. It shows quite a few "contributing structures" which lends validity to the historic district designation.

kd

The idea of an Historic District shouldn't be to stop progress but rather to ensure that what is there is preserved. It should not be a web of rules to exclude new forms in architecture.

Other historical districts in the world have a firm handle on this, two examples: Venice, Italy where they're building a modern bridge over the Grand Canal and Barcelona, Spain in which a modern roof has been built over the historic Mercat de Santa Caterina.

Venice:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dustintobias/149782418/

Barcelona:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lluisanunez/61297812/

23rd may not be ready for such a progressive approach to design but it seems that the idea that modern is counter to what's important about an historic district misses the point of preservation.

kd

Whoops, let me try those links again -

Venice:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dustintobias/149782418/

Barcelona:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lluisanunez/61297812/

Charles Johnson

Pottery Barn & Williams Sonoma are ok but Apple is not?. Aside from the issues about the building, the question of what the business produces and what value that has to the community should be considered. Apple produces world class, award winning, and impeccably designed products. I think more people would welcome this than another clothes shop selling more 'retro clothing'. What a missed opportunity!

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