Produced by the Austin, Texas-based Charles More Foundation, Placenotes is a boxed collection of images portraying Portland and its attractions. This is the tenth in the Moore Foundation’s Placenotes series of travel guides, and the first to feature a West Coast city.
The nonprofit Charles Moore Foundation is dedicated to teaching people about the value of good places. It published its first Placenotes guide, on Austin, in 2000, as a way to help cities tell their stories to a national audience.
Like the previous editions, Placenotes Portland is written, photographed and edited by Kevin Keim, Executive Director of the Moore Foundation. “As everywhere looks more and more like nowhere, we seek out places that make us feel as though we are somewhere," he said. "Cities, neighborhoods, the environment, parks, schools, streets, indeed the whole physical realm is what we seek to document. We feel that there are good and worthwhile places everywhere; what we do is help cities communicate that to people, both natives and visitors alike.”
Placenotes Portland came about thanks to Jonah Cohen, incoming president of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon and a longtime AFO member. While visiting Austin two years ago, he received a copy of Placenotes Austin as a gift and immediately wondered about such a guide for Portland. After getting in touch with the Moore Foundation and convincing Keim to pursue a Placenotes Portland.
Our version of Placenotes is not strictly devoted to chronicling the city's major attractions. Cohen and others from the AFO took him all over the metro area, not just Portland Proper but the Willamette Valley and destinations like the Alvar Aalto-designed Mt. Angel Abbey Library and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Gordon House.
At the same time, some obvious choices for tourists are not included in the guide. Instead, Placenotes follows the whims and instincts of Keim. And they are good instincts. While places like Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Portland Art Museum, the Keller Fountain, the Japanese Garden and Powell's Books are included, so are less obvious selections like The Rebuilding Center, the Perfume House, the Ace Hotel, Doug Fir and the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center.
This unexpected quirkiness is one of its main strengths, and balances out the fact that the photography is not always exactly groundbreaking (Keim, while certainly well-intentioned, is not a professional photographer). The end result is a is a lovely little time-capsule that gets one invigorated about the collection of places and people Portland has grown, and that grow Portland.
Placenotes is available in the usual locations like Powells and Amazon. However, if you purchase a copy from the AFO website, the foundation will receive half of the proceeds. (I initially had difficulty finding any mention of Placenotes when I first went to the AFO website, but after Googling "Architecture Foundation of Oregon" and "Placenotes" I found the hotlink above for purchasing an AFO-held copy.)
Cheers to Cohen, the AFO and everyone involved in making Placenotes Portland a reality.