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student abroad in nyc

I think it would be awesome if the AIA or the two architecture schools in town used it as a historic restoration or design studio project and made it a place where artists or design students could have their reviews or screenings in the vicinity of the waterfront and the beautiful natural light that comes in from the east windows in there. To let something so prolific pass away would be a shame, especially as this is Yeon's only public building. If it were done by students it would cost incredibly less for labor, free design, and then once completed, parks could rent it out to groups and have events here like waterfront open-mics, reviews, and various other cultural events. I'm game!


This URL:


...over on skyscraperpage.com, courtesy of tworivers, will take you to some good pictures.

A few of the b&w interiors give a sense of the elegantly spare modern interior it once had. I thought the bike idea was great at first, but those pictures show me that the idea of the place was in part for it to be a place of contemplation as well as one of learning.

Ecology center, garden pavilion, museum... I guess you just have to figure out how to pay for the building's upkeep. That's probably what the Parks Bureau had in mind with the restaurant.

Too bad the building wasn't located further north where the Japanese internment memorial is located. Seems like that would be a better fit. It would be away from the Waterfront festival season leviathan too.

m conroy

why not make it an arts center for waterfront park? it could be the headquarters for various events at the park such as the blues festival, rose festival, brewers fest, cinco de mayo, etc. it could also hold a smaller cafe and a visitors center as it had initially. it has such a central location, why not take advantage of it?

Frank Dufay

Since it's already in City ownership, why not --along with these other great ideas-- also include a place where people can pay their city bills? Right now there's the Portland Building and the Revenue Bureau...neither especially convenient for people in cars. Whereas the POVIC building could keep those spaces in front for short-time (15 minute) parking, while people went in to pay their bills. This could help provide a revenue stream for the Parks Bureau to develop the rest of that facility for some of the ideas suggested above.


I thought the new First and Main office tower was going to have an expansive ground level bike depot? Do you happen to know if that is still included in Equity's proposal?

They even link the Oregonian story on their website.

It wouldn't make sense to have two bike hubs within two blocks.

I imagine the space would be pretty successful with a small coffee shop, and the remaining space renovated and turned into a community center type space. With a tenant (Starbucks?) paying a steady rent for a small portion of the space, the rent money could be used to maintain and improve the building.

The Rose Fesitval could sponser an artwork exposition in the building, along with their Waterfront Village. The Blues Fest, Cinco De Mayo, Bite of Portland, Pride, and many other Waterfront Park fesitvals could also use the space for various expositions and storage/staging space. I could also see a temporary winter use in a 'Portland Museum' or maybe even a permanent space for the Oregon Maritime Center and Museum, but that would probably require an expansion.

In any case, I'd love to see the building saved and actually opened up to the park. On a hot summer day, that area probably has one of Portland's highest pedestrian/bike counts.

Dennis H. Coalwell

Not another Starbucks, please! How about Stumptown?

Can the building be relocated to a spot in the northern part of the park...like was suggested in an earlier post?


chicago's waterfront has successful buildings on its waterfront that have concessions, bike rentals, etc. seems like a no-brainer. just get rid of the white picket fence that was around the patio last time i went by.


In conversations with John Yeon in the late ‘80’s the reasons for removal were presented as being in response to the inept renovations done without consultation… a breach of trust. Even then the external paint colors had not been entirely tarted up in the bilious shades of a Miami Vice escapee – the current colorway scheme perhaps in response to the desire for a pseudo cruise ship ambiance? Same for the stupid “party hat” ticket booth… incomprehensively insensitive.

The interior perhaps could be stripped back to its original role as an informational presentation of regional wood veneers, and the exterior to its original “Yeon Blue” and sage battens and framework– whether in this location or other?
Visitors' Information Centre, Portland, Oregon; Designed by: J. Yeon
1949 Aug., p. 98-103.

Of course none of the posted arguments are boosted by the misattribution of professional licensing – Yeon was a Designer – in which there is no shame- as the quality of the work speaks for itself… For a site sponsored by the local AIA one would expect a more considerate and accurate portrayal…

Dianne Cassidy

The space would be great for events such as weddings, receptions, parties, etc. It has an atrium garden, screening from the city, river views, a lot of glass and light. Other publiclly-owned facilities are managed by firms who rent out the space and control what goes on so the building would not be damaged once restored. With a little publicity, this spot could be a winner. Such venues are booked heavily! It already has a kitchen space, and the clean, modern designs are popular again with a new generation, thank goodness. What would you like to rent it for?

matt mc

since there is a lot of attention right now going towards river clean up, why not make it some sort of museum about the river. from environmental stuff to history, it could be a learning center and tourist attraction. the willamette river museum?


I think that's a great idea.


i think a combination of the exhibition hall/event space could be really successful in portland. people want the site of their wedding or other big event to say something about them. so having a building that exhibits the "portlandness" of portland (what's more portland than the willamette river?) and also accomodates events could draw the business of a lot of people with pdx-pride. the building could provide a public service during the daytime and generate revenue at night.

Fred Leeson

Regrettably, the parking situation really limits what is feasible at that location. I'm surprised the restaurant lasted as long as it did. I think any potential new use has to focus on the park and the people who are are walking, bicycling, jogging, rollerblading or skateboarding past. A river museum/interpretative center/coffee shop might do it. It's going to have to generate revenue in some fashion and it somehow must add up to F-U-N.

Frank Duafy

the parking situation really limits what is feasible at that location...It's going to have to generate revenue in some fashion and it somehow must add up to F-U-N.

Well, paying city bills isn't the least bit F-U-N (and I've heard a lot of F-Us in my time collecting them) but, seriously, those few spaces could all be 15 minunte spaces giving people an opportunity to drop off paynments without the hassle they generally have to go through now to pay bills at the Portland Building or the Revenue Bureau Office. The revenue agencies would lease a small amount of space, providing a revenue stream for the building, which could then have other, more interesting (and FUN) things going on. I'm passing this suggestion along to Parks folks I know for wat it's worth...

Rich Gunderson

I agree with Yeon. Tear it down. It has served its purpose. Trying to get there to pay bills is out of fashion(most people pay by internet)and the traffic grid would be difficult if the short term spaces happened to be full. The building is very small which severely limits what could be housed there and the building can't be too popular because there is limited parking which cannot be expanded.

Frank Duafy

Trying to get there to pay bills is out of fashion(most people pay by internet

"Out of fashion" or not, many people still come to pay in person, with cash. Many people don't have checking accounts, let alone internet access. Besides, the City still doesn't take VISA, let alone internet payments, for most of its bills.


i agree with yeon, i think we should tear it down. If you look at the building in its context, it no longer respond to Yeon's design intention. The whole idea of restoring to it's original does not serve what yeon intended the building to do.

On the other hand, i think the idea of introducing a few small structures with cultural uses along the waterfront to invigorate the parks on a daily basis (instead of just festivals). This should be step toward creating a city engages it water edge like every oher city in the world next to a body of water.


I've been to other downtown ballrooms and hotels for weddings and events and there was was no onsite parking. I had to park on the street or in a garage and walk. The Tiffany Center anyone? What makes this place unique regarding parking? There would have to be some access from the city side though.

Frank Dufay

What makes this place unique regarding parking? There would have to be some access from the city side though...

There's a surface parking lot directly across the street. Plenty of long-term parking for events.


^I think the surface parking lot across the street is being torn up for the new Hawthorne Bridge offramp, so the new Multnomah County Courthouse can go on the county owned block that currently has the Hawthorne Bridge offramp running across it.


“… spare that tree”

Lets take a read, and think, over what Yeon actually said – before bringing the saw happy demolition crews in…

"My own interest is very limited; it concerns deliberate aesthetic preference for forms sympathetic to various natural landscapes, or, in a high-flown phrase I used when I was young, 'architecture which translates the spirit of places into forms which are habitable.' "

"regional architecture does not happen simply, automatically, or unself-consciously as it once did. If it happens at all, it results from deliberate aesthetic resistance to ubiquitous popular fashions. It will be done by people and for people who love landscapes and are literate in architecture . . . It is my belief that significant regional architecture will be an act of will, an act of taste, a response triggered by an appreciation of nature."

Now lets review: River – still there, Sun and/or Clouds – still around, Roadways - reduced in width and now only on one side of the site; again a clear “win” for the Landscape. The site has actually been incrementally improved… while not natural, it has been cultivated… can our only response now be that any building is so conditionally designed that any external change results in such “unfitting-ness” that it must go like a house of cards?

Chances that anything newly built could actually succeed in embodying any of the voiced approaches is also unfortunately close to nil – the regional attributes alone should resonate with sustainability goals and the local ‘terrior’ (with a nod to anti-globalization as well).

Yet, please, not another coffee shop….. much better to have a River Intepretive Center with a real-time map linked to sensors showing eddies of waste caffeine distribution in the Willamette….
The f-u-n coffee shop in every planning project is a held-over echo of decades past when project illustrations always had balloons (if not kites) rampant, in a desperate attempt to convey either a lightness of spirit or playfulness (one suspects a load of hot air and blustering windbags off stage right….) likely just those very qualities not actually embodied in the works…


I'd like to again reinforce the idea of some kind of river-oriented program. Something simple and informative could be great. If there's a small kiosk with coffee or such that helps make more realisticallly doable, I don't think that should be a deal breaker.

What I'd like to know is, are there any people from Parks other other institutions--or perhaps elected officials (nudge nudge)-- who are sympathetic to this idea and might be able to taking the baton and help flush out this idea into something concrete and action oriented? Or is this really a pipe dream? (Actually, pipes are a big part of the Willamette's story anyway.)


Those excerpts of Yeon's writings in NDP's comment are beautiful and exactly illuminate the ethic we would be very fortunate to have embraced by plans for a revitalization of the this building.

River ecology study, habitat contemplation, even weddings might be compatible with it. It seems like it will be a real challenge to get such a conceptual focus to function happily with the highly intense activity of the waterfront festivals, but maybe it could work with some help. A modest, inspiring garden as a supporting companion for example, with somebody, maybe the Kurisu or Murase firm's help.


What a great and thoughtful stream of posts!

Two cents - since there is very little parking for 100 yards in any direction, the notion of "event facility" doesn't figure.

Does the late Tom McCall have friends still? Remember as a KOIN reporter he was crucial in drawing attention to the plight of the Willamette - back when being called an "environmentalist" was worth a fistfight.

The city owns the building, and owes great debts to McCall. Perhaps a small museum to the value of our five great rivers - the Columbia, the Willamette, the Tualatin, the Clackamas, and the Sandy? These are the true lifeblood of our community - and if neglected, will poison us all.

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