Suddenly this week is filling up fast with a variety of events, all of which, in their own way, address Portland's historic architecture and infrastructure.
First of all, please excuse the shameless self promotion, but this Thursday I will be screening a new DVD collection of experimental short films called Along the Way. Each of the shorts is about three to six minutes long, and collectively they are travelogue portraits of cities around the world like Kyoto, Beijing, London, Chicago, and Copenhagen. But more often, the subject is Portland itself, as in these two films: Ocean Way, chronicling a trip from our city to the Oregon Coast and back, and Crossings, which overlaps several trips across the Fremont Bridge.
"Libby uses high-definition video, deft editing, and image and speed manipulation to create travel movies (ranging from Portland bridges to Asia and Europe) very unlike the boring old trip videos your relatives forced you to watch," Stan Hall wrote in last week's Oregonian. Or, as the paper's Marc Mohan wrote of my 2007 show and DVD, Travelogues, "His short films manage to meld the quotidian and the sublime, or rather perhaps expose the one within the other." Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times, also called the work "beautiful" and "hypnotic". Some would also inevitably call these films "boring" - it's not for everyone, especially if you like films with dialogue or people.
The show is scheduled for Thursday evening at 7PM at Grand Detour, 215 SE Morrison St., Suite 2020.
Also this week, the Dill Pickle Club, a community organization headed by Marc Moscato that "organizes educational projects that help us understand the place in which we live", is offering this weekend "Sweet Cakes, Long Journey", two behind-the-scenes community tours of Portland’s Chinatown.
The tours, organized in partnership with the Friends of Portland Chinatown, offer a unique opportunity to learn about the neighborhood through its architecture, oral history and little-known cultural heritage. A lecture by visiting scholar Dr. Marie Rose Wong offers a broader sociological and historical view of the area.
Highlighting many of Chinatown’s lesser known landmarks, the walk encompasses Yat Sing Music Club, the New Market Theater, historic Chinese association buildings, as well as the original Chinatown on the south side of Burnside. Along the route, elders will meet the tour to share their memories. The walk will stop at sites more familiar to most, including Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Portland’s Chinatown gate and Lan Su Chinese Garden.
A video preview of the "Sweet Cakes" tour can be found here:
The tours conclude at University of Oregon’s White Stag Building, where Dr. Wong will give a slide lecture based on her research for her authoritative book, Sweet Cakes, Long Journey: The Chinatowns of Portland, Oregon (University of Washington, 2004). Dr. Wong will place the tour in context, detailing how discrimination and public policy have affected Chinatown, from its years as home to the second largest Chinese population in the U.S., to its present-day period of development, economic struggle and changing identity. Dr. Wong is an associate professor specializing in urban design at the Institute of Public Service, Seattle University.
The Oregonian's Ben Brink also has an excellent photo slideshow of Chinatown sights and some of its longtime residents (including Mary Leong, pictured above) here.
And finally, the Architectural Heritage Center has a star-studded program scheduled for this Saturday, called "Mid-Century Modern and the Recent Past: Documentation and Preservation".
"Buildings and residential enclaves from the mid-twentieth century are reaching and surpassing the 50 year mark, making them widely eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places," says the AHC website. "Yet preservationists still face a number of challenges, even when advocating for buildings that can now be recognized as officially historic. Development pressures, the economy, and aging infrastructure—along with widespread misconceptions about the role of modern architecture in the U.S.—put these resources at risk in the Northwest and throughout the country."
"The recent discussion surrounding Memorial Coliseum brought this to our own backyard. We look at this debate as a new opportunity for our community to discuss Portland’s architectural “recent past” and work to identify the significant buildings and landscapes that make that era—and our region—unique and memorable."
The program, which runs from 10AM-4PM this Saturday at the Architectural Heritage Center (701 SE Grand Ave.), will be led by Christine Madrid French, director of the Modernism + Recent Past program with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Anthea Hartig, director of the National Trust’s western regional office in San Francisco. They will be joined by a cadre of local advocates, including myself. Admission is $20.