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Who reviles the Bank of California Building and why do they revile it? How embarrassing. I always found it elegant, well-proportioned and interesting. Also, I like the green stone cladding. What am I fooling myself into seeing? What am I missing? Please don't tell anyone that it's one of my favorite post-WW II buildings in downtown Portland.

Seriously, if this building has a bad rep in the architectural community, or is or was the object of widespread public scorn, I'd be interested in knowing why.

Bob R.

I agree with Richard - this is the first I've heard about supposed widespread negative reaction to the building.

- Bob R.


I'm glad Brian, that you decided to address this topic as it was quite interesting to see the opposing perspectives in the Trib. For me, buildings like those by A.E. Doyle, are timeless and enduring, not only the library but even his lesser known designs such as the Ford Bldg. at SE 11th & Division. Modern buildings can also acheive this, but it is premature to call anything built in the past two decades timeless without much time having passed. As an example of how something isn't timeless, the Wells Fargo tower was seen by architects in the Trib article as the worst building around - I thought that was a bit harsh but clearly that building is not timeless - it is a product of the era in which it was constructed which is why it looks like a giant square Atlas rocket standing at its launchpad. In this respect I guess I kind of like that kitschyness but nonetheless its not a timeless design.

Regarding the Hatfield Courthouse - in looking at its base on the east side and wrapping around to the front are a dozen or so courses of faux-tuff (I believe it is cast concrete). This is significant in the recurring discussions on this blog, over design in historic districts, as this shows an example of modern architecture reflecting historic materials, Tuff, or its cast concrete version, were used all over Portland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Whether one likes the building overall or not, I think the architects of the Hatfield building did an admirable job of building something new while subtly paying respect to the designs/materials of the past.

Lastly, the Dekum building is simply awesome! I hope some of the things built today will be as enduring as this 110+ year old masterpiece.


Of course, responses to the question of best/worst building are largely a matter of personal taste. I think the Wells Fargo Tower is one of the city's best skyscrapers. It's sleek, smooth, and is faced with beautiful stone. I enjoy the sweeping feeling experienced when gazing up those vertical ribbons of stone fron the towers base. This is what a skycraper should do for the person on the street.

My feeling is that some otherwise good building designs in town have suffered dramatically with time from having been clad with aggregate concrete. Plain concrete cladding also has shown itself to wear poorly. Just my own personal taste.


It really is horrible that they're demolishing the Rosefriend apartments...I always walked by there on my way to school at PSU and wished I could live there, so I guess now that will never happen. It always seemed to me like an elegant building.
As for new buildings: one that I can think of that I like is the Gregory Lofts, and it just happens to have a bit of decoration on the outside. Minimalism is great, but a little variety is good, too.

Frank Dufay

Regarding the Hatfield Courthouse...Whether one likes the building overall or not, I think the architects of the Hatfield building did an admirable job of building something new while subtly paying respect to the designs/materials of the past.

I have to laugh. I was called as a witness to a case there, spent three days, and the very elegant --but completely uncomfortable wood benches-- speak to architecture/design as eye-candy, not something that conerns itself with something as banal as "comfort."

At least a dozen fellow witnesses, left to sit outside those courtrooms, kept wondering: "they spent all that money and its not comfortable to SIT here?"

Utility is NOT a four letter word. Thinking about people who USE the building shouldn't be an afterthought. I do, however, think it still looks cool from the outside.


Function over form, isn't that the modernist crede? Ironic now, isn't that...

Tim K.

I guess in addition to personal taste driving this divide, I would add another nuance: that there is something of an acquired taste to modern architecture.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it takes a fair amount of exposure to architecture to see the beauty in simplicity. I've been kind of an avid amateur reader about architecture for 20 years and the first time I saw a Neutra house I thought it had all the character of a mobile home. Now I find the simple elegance of his designs invigorating. But I think I had to learn a lot to get there.


It's an interesting aspect of this discussion that when Belluschi was designing the Portland Art Museum he was being directed to follow the style of the much loved Central Library designed by A.E. Doyle (Belluschi's former boss.)

He won his appeal to design a modern building in part because he got Frank Lloyd Wright to send a letter endorsing modernism over historicism.

Today we have the Portland Art Museum, truly one of the city's great buildings - and representative of what can happen when people are encouraged to follow their talent, rather than forced into a rehash of design from years past.


The base on the Hatfield Courthouse is Indiana Limestone, sculpted by hand just like the Dekum building and a dozen others in the neighborhood. Like it or not, it is not faux anything.


pdx2m2, thanks for clarifying the material at the base of the Hatfield courthouse. Whatever the material, they did a good job of reflecting the use of materials seen in many historic buildings in Portland. This is a key point when there are discussions on this blog about design review in historic districts - It is clearly possible to use the same or similar material in new construction as was used a century ago and still have a new design, that (the Hatfield bldg),apparently is seen by many in the architecture world as pretty nice. So when there are discussions about an Apple store or other new projects, this should serve as a good example of what can be done - not the "phony historicism" that it often mentioned or feared.


I think Tim K. is right. Before I knew anything about architecture, I could only really notice buildings that were loud or different in an obvious way (eg - the Hilton roll-on building). I had to acquire some knowledge about architecture to appreciate restraint and elegance.


I've always liked the Union Bank building too, but I'm not surprised to hear that feeling isn't widely shared. I pointed it out to a visiting friend once, someone whose design sense I think is pretty good. He said, "hmm." But he was enjoying the modern half of the Benson Hotel across Stark St., especially the exterior stairway. I'd barely noticed it before.


Those were absolutely interesting articles from Portland Tribune. I do agree architecture is subjective and a matter of personal taste. The articles shows the gap between what architects consider good architecture today and the public in general. Mr Slick and a lot of people are enamored with architecture of yesteryears because of the ornaments, sense of permanenence, materials. Unfortunately, the economy, technology, labors skills, social importance have change. they no longer build things the way they use to. The fundamental elements of architecture does not change..ie scale, proportion, transparency, massing and contextual relationships.

The gap between architects/designer and the general public is education. Until someone becomes part of the process of creating a piece of "Architecture" it is really hard to understand the factor that shapes a building. Change is scary to people..that goes with everything.. from urban density to architecture language.

Mr. slick, whatever your name is.. as part of the architectural community, i'm going to represent.. and say that most of us love the older building as well that goes withou saying. We learn from them and take their essence and apply them today in a new way.

"arches were made because of the material + technology available that period"


"But he was enjoying the modern half of the Benson Hotel across Stark St., especially the exterior stairway." Peter's visiting friend.

Oh my...well, that is extraordinary. I've occasionally wondered if there might ever be hope of seeing the Benson addition torn down and replaced with something less appalling. The Benson is so beautiful, and then it has the misfortune to be shoulder to shoulder with that ugly thing.

Maybe if there were at least a little distance between the two buildings, it might have worked, but the result of making a direct physical connection between those two architectural styles without attempting some kind of intelligent aesthetic transition, is two poorly matched companions. I wish any virtues the stairway might be argued to possess, could make up for this error on Broadway, but unlike Peter's friend, I don't see it.

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