Last night the anticipated new magazine Portland Spaces, edited by former Oregonian architecture critic Randy Gragg and published by Portland Monthly, arrived on the scene with a party in a decked-out warehouse over in the Northwest industrial area near Pyramid Brewing.
If the turnout for this shindig was any indication, the magazine ought to do well. When it came time for Randy to speak shortly after 8PM, the room he spoke from (there were two adjoining spaces for the party) actually reached its limit and some of us wound up watching from closed-circuit flat screen TVs in the overflow room. It felt a little surreal, but thanks to the genius stroke of having free hors d'oeuvre from Burgerville in the form of little cheeseburgers, cups of fries and shakes (plus free booze at the bar), the big-brother effect went down a whole lot easier.
The jam-packed gathering also was somewhat of an odd mix. On one hand, you had lots of art and architecture people, most all of whom know Randy. And on the other hand, there was also, if you'll forgive the stereotyping, a cleavage and Range Rover contingent. A cynic might say this represents the marriage of Randy and Portland Monthly's demographic (which, in full disclosure, I've freelanced for). But in the end it doesn't matter. It's about the product, the magazine itself, which was handed out in little goody bags with jars of Burgerville spread (or what I still think of as "special sauce"). And that could wind up being an interesting pairing--Randy and the magazine, that is, not the magazine and the fry goo.
I've only made a first run-through of the magazine, but it was fun seeing the successful brisk and well-designed graphics of Portland Monthly applied solely to homes and architecture, underscored by Randy's erudition about local planning, preservation, and architects. (Two writers from Willamette Week I like a lot, Zach Dundas and Mike Thelin, also contributed to the first issue.) For example, there's a spread of four pages tracing the lineage of housing design in Portland that includes pictures and small bits of text on everyone from Van Evra Bailey, Pietro Belluschi and John Storrs to Brad Cloepfil, Bob Oshatz and Rick Potestio.
In addition, there are more in-depth looks at individual projects in smart ways, like the under-construction 2121 Belmont project seen through the eyes of three people: an architect from Ankrom Moisan involved in the design, someone from the neighborhood organization, and an architect previously part of the design commission. The cover-story is a house by Jeff Kovel and his superlative firm, Skylab. That's probably a good example of a cool modern project you'd be less likely to find in, say, Oregon Home. (Although I do remember seeing a few cool Rick Potestio projects there from time to time in years past.)
Regardless, it's always great to have more voices and resources devoted to covering design and architecture in Portland.
And speaking of Randy Gragg, if you didn't get a big enough dose from the magazine, or would like to hear more about the making of it--and more about architecture in Portland--next Wednesday, January 16 at 6:30, I will be interviewing Randy as the debut in a new discussion series that I'm doing in partnership with Design Within Reach called "Designs On Portland". The event is free and will be held at DWR's studio in the Wieden + Kennedy building. We'll be doing one about every other month. More to come on the discussion in the days ahead.