Last week at architect Stuart Emmons' invitation I visited the new Deschutes Brewery brew pub on Southwest 11th Avenue near the Brewery Blocks. The building was a familiar one: the former Jim Stevens Auto Body building, where my car was repaired a few years ago after being hit by a Tri-Met bus. I was very happy with the body work, but I think most people will get more out of this building now that Deschutes is here. The pub is right next door to Portland Center Stage's Gerding Theater at the Armory, so this would make an ideal pre- or post-theater stop. (As would, admittedly, any number of other nearby outlets from Sushiland to Henry's Tavern to Pizza Schmizza.)
The goal, Emmons says, was to create a brewpub that was in between two other local pubs' styles: the sleekness of Holst Architecture's Bridgeport brewpub remodel and the homey, lived in quality of McMenamins' approximately 10,000 local pubs. And inside, that's how it seemed. You could tell there was a real architect behind the design in terms of the spatial arrangements. There is lots of character to the place, but I had a sense of the vast wide open space being divided into a series of room-like smaller spaces without the overall sense of light and vastness being taken away.
There was also a lot of fun had on this project in terms of textures and accoutrements. Numerous light fixtures are of the vintage, wrought-iron variety. Like a salon-style art gallery show or the tons of mirrors on the walls at traditional French brasseries, Deschutes is covered with tons of gilded frames, some with historic photos of the building and Portland, others with kitschy drawings and artifacts. What I particularly enjoyed was how even the air ducts were enclosed in gilded frames at their wall openings. There is also lots of raw Douglas fir used throughout the space to give it an appropriately rustic feeling without seeming chintzy. This brewpub feels new, but lived in.
The best part of the new Deschutes brewpub, though -- besides their copious supply of Mirror Pond ale -- may be the cornucopia of chain saw carvings on the entry to each dining room. Emmons tells me the artist works without any drawings or guide; he merely creates with his chainsaw in an impromptu fashion the array of owls, goats and other wildlife. I can't say it's the most sophisticated, refined sculpture I've ever encountered. But God help me: I love it. There are actually some pretty delicate, artful carvings to these chainsaw works. Maybe next the guy could do a chainsaw Portlandia, or perhaps a statue of Tom Potter as a going away present.
Meanwhile, look for Emmons Architects to have an increased presence in town. Educated at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, Stuart has long been one of the better architects in town; his Fire Station 1 design competition entry with Hennebery Eddy was terrific, and now the firm is designing a courthouse in Gresham. Gerding Edlen is actually a co-developer of the Deschutes site; here's hoping Emmons may eventually be designing one of their condos when the market comes back. The Deschutes looks terrific, but Stuart should also be doing bigger better jobs than brewpubs - the brilliance of the accompanying chainsaw art not withstanding. Actually, though, can't you just imagine some of this artwork in the lobby of some ultra-modern condo?