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Mike Thelin

I would love to see Holst, Colab and host of other smaller more talented firms take on condo projects, however, I wholly disagree that a more compelling design would have saved Mr. Onder any trouble. In fact, I believe good design would have made it worse for the embattled developer. Any architect or developer who has ever been unlucky enough to work in NW Portland can tell you how uneasily the local residents adapt to any change. They want everything to be squatty, brick, conforming and not more then four stories in height. They want their boring little neighborhood to stay the same forever.

Seems to me the design presented to them is exactly what they want, but they're objecting to it because it's too tall for their liking and therfore out of character in a historic neighborhood visually dominated by Victorian and Craftsman styles.

If I were Jack Onder, I would be pretty frustrated. He's been trying to please the neighborhood for more than a year, and hasn't been able to save this prime site from its current use: A surface level parking lot for a secondary retail strip center.


Yeah, Mike, how dare those pesky NW residents want to preserve the character of their historic neighborhood? They should just shut up and accept 15 stories of ugly modernist shit! The sooner every building in NW looks like the tower on 19th or the one on Northrup the better.

Mike Thelin


You can have it both ways. Good design doesn't have to be 'modernist shit' as you say. And some modern buildings work well with existing historic structures. Take Allied's building on 23rd and Glisan.
And I wouldn't exactly called Ankrom's proposed tower 15 stories of, again, 'modernist shit.' There's really not much overtly modern about it. It may be tall, but it seems to hint at the historic aesthetic of the neighborhood at its base, and it's certainly better than a strip-mall parking lot. Just curious: What would you suggest for this site? What exactly does the neighborhood want besides saving a treasured wisteria vine?


Do you believe that a design oriented firm must necessarily be smaller", and if so, why? Does this apply everywhere, or only in



Of course when we differentiate between design firms and service firms, it's a matter of generalization. And that also goes for the notion that design firms are smaller and service firms are larger. It's not to say there aren't big firms with impressive design talent. But it's been my observation that more often than not you'll find the biggest firms are more mainstream and bland in their designs. There are big exceptions to this, like SOM in the middle part of the 20th century. So the point is well taken but I don't think it disproves the thrust of what I'm talking about either.

David Kwon

I think the author is missing the general point of the debate of Mr. Onder's development. Jack did not call for a rezoning of the area, the city had already rezoned the area and Jack was taking the opportunity to give the neighborhood much needed density which Portland lacks, granted it is growing at sometimes too rapid of a pace. Jack has some design integrity as you can see in the other development he is constructing on the south east waterfront (Strand). Much of the aesthetic problems that the author speaks of is irrelvant to this development considering that the neighborhood wanted a contextual development for the neighborhood. The primary disagreements of the development were the neighbors at the street level of the develop. They were concerned about the shadow cast of the condo and the effects it would have on their property, but most of that has been solved thus construction has begun. If the author is upset about the design of Jack's development, he/she should not show resentment toward Jack, but rather the residents of the neighborhood that have pushed for the final contextual design.

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