Last weekend I attended the Oregon Design Conference at Salishan Resort on the coast near Lincoln City. First of all, it was great to finally see Salishan, because the circa-1968 resort (designed by John Storrs) has been long been lauded for its architecture, a simple but striking series of modern wood and glass buildings that provide an ideal example of the so-called "Northwest Style". But more than that, the conference got me hopeful for architecture again.
Here in Portland and virtually everywhere else, there are so many mediocre or bad buildings that get built, even ones with big budgets. It gets tiresome, just like bad Hollywood blockbusters, the typically laughable list of best-selling books, or the unlistenable sounds-du-jour of most popular major-label recording artists. But seeing and hearing about the work of people and firms like Lawrence Scarpa, Alex Lifschutz, Colab and Helene Fried at the conference was very inspiring. It brought to mind a lot of ideas.
I'm excited these days by examples of architects who are acting as their own developers, preventing developers from compromising their designs. It's also encouraging to hear about public projects that may come to fruition, like the James Beard Public Market in Portland. Having our Pacific Northwest region act as a forerunner in sustainable design is a source of pride, although I have increasingly begun to worry that the fervor people have for it can destract us from creating or attending to good overall design. As desperately necessary for the planet as sustainable architecture is, still I seek the more intangible soul-grabbing feel of great architecture, be it the poetry of its form or the satisfaction its ingenuity and utility brings.
And while Portland is frustratingly short of truly magnificent individual buildings, it also possesses more than enough talent to raise the architectural bar, with Allied Works, Colab, BOORA, Holst, Architropolis and Richard Potestio all supremely able. Besides, things aren't exactly dire here, because Portland's urban fabric collectively makes for a better experience than that of virtually any other American city.