Vancouver City Hall (all photos by Matthew Ginn, Homestead Images)
BY BRIAN LIBBY AND MATTHEW GINN
Last year, photographer Matthew Ginn acted as a photographic correspondent for Portland Architecture with shots of each public high school in the city. Now it's time to begin a new series, in which Ginn pictures each of the metro area's city halls.
In most cases, save perhaps for Portland, these are relatively modest buildings. But given what they represent, and that, like high schools, they comprise some of the most visible and oft-used public spaces in Portland and its environs, the 29 city hall buildings in the metro area make an ideal companion to the schools portfolio.
"I started by making a map of all the city halls nearby. Some of are what you expect (e.g. Portland, Hillsboro). Others, like Gladstone, are part of the local fire/police station. And then the smaller cities (e.g. Maywood Park, Rivergrove) just use a room at a local school," he writes by email. "Some of these cities I’d never even heard of! The best might be Johnson City, which is just a renegade trailer park, so the de facto city hall is the trailer park office."
Vancouver City Hall, built in 1966, is "really cool for a number of reasons," he says. "Its architects were Nelson, Walla & Dolle (now DSP architecture). It's strongly reflective of the era—mid-century modern style, very car-friendly, etc. Also interesting, because they’re moving city hall to the was-to-be-Columbian building in a couple of months. Made me realize that Vancouver has a lot of really interesting architecture that is overlooked."
Thanks to Matthew for taking these shots. What do all of you think of the building? To me, it has aspects of the Brutalist period of modern architecture that briefly flourished in the 1960s and '70s - big on concrete and a bit uninviting for a public building, but possessing a kind of simple grandness that is not without merit. People have similar mixed feelings of Boston City Hall, perhaps the most prominent of American City halls constructed in this period.
Whether these structures will stand the test of time with future generations is of course unknown, but we should never be hasty in tearing down 50-year-old buildings before a proper historical context has had the chance to present itself. Time and time again, generations seek to tear down half-century-old structures while heaping praise on 100-year-old ones: sometimes with proper justification, but too often with ill advised haste. Here's hoping, whether it's an actual city hall or takes on a new role, that Vancouver's government center sticks around, concrete an dall.