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"We want to preserve quality historic architecture whenever possible, but every city evolves and changes over time. The key is achieving the right balance of preserving the past but making way for the future."

One problem is that nobody seems to agree on what "quality architecture" is. Modernists often see older styles as anachronisms, Those who like older styles often see modern architecture as cold and oppressive. At the neighborhood level, a simple older home may be viewed as a local landmark, even if its not viewed as such by the powers that plan our city and state. At the same token, a modern condo building may be seen by many as a positive step toward the future. There is no perfectly right answer but certainly a conversation needs to ensue. A conversation that doesn't focus on one area of the city, such as Downtown, but considers all areas of the city, from our older residential neighborhoods to the heart of the city center and even to those areas on the outer edges of the metro area.

Personally, I would argue that an evolving city doesn't have to include the demolition of so many structures, which is what is happening today. A city can still evolve but there should be more consideration given to what already exists. Do we really want to look back in a few decades and instead of seeing a region that grew, while respecting the built environment, instead see a lanscape void of that heritage? Density can be achieved through reuse of existing buildings. Think about the waste, when the thousands of perfectly useful bricks from the Rosefriend meet their demise. They have been in place doing their job for 100 years, meaning they have paid for themselves countless times over. To wipe them away is to waste all of that equity, equity which should not only be considered in financial terms but in cultural and natural resource terms as well.

Another thought - Anthony Tung, author of Preserving the World's Great Cities, argues that far more historic buildings have been destroyed in urban redevelopment than in all of the bombings of World War II, stating "saving the culture of cities has become a race against time and self-negating human impulses."

If Portland is to be known as one of the World's great cities we need to ask ourselves what legacy we want to preserve.


Actually, they are probably going to recycle and reuse all of the bricks from the Rosenfriends apartment building - it's a lot cheaper than dumping them in a landfill.

The problem with preserving everything, however, is the fact that Portland primarily consists of hundreds of square miles (about 150) of neat little rows of single-family homes. Some of these are historic and worth saving; most aren't. However, as soon as you touch one - say, changing the paint color of your house or building an addition - there is a great risk that the wrath of the community will slap you with complaints to the city.

How do you build density out of single-family homes? Particularly ones clad in vinyl or wood shingles? They aren't exactly long lasting, durable or ready to upgrade into higher-density buildings. While I have seen a few homes in NW Portland upgraded to apartments, typically they require exterior staircases (which I'm guessing are merely access to upper apartments, but maybe they're fire stairs). Other fire & life safety upgrades are likely just as challenging.

So what do you do? preserve every single house in Portland (all 150 square miles worth)? Or let their value skyrocket due to lack of housing in Portland, and have a repeat of San Fran with $750,000 average house price for the metro region?

Obviously, there is a balance to be struck, and a lot of hard work by community members, architects, planners and developers in reconciling these differences.

Justin Stranzl

According to Sharon Wood Wortman's excellent "Portland Bridge Book," Werner Storch of Portland's Storch Engineering sold the Portland Art Commission on the idea of a steel tied arch; the PAC liked it, and ODOT took their concept to New York's Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas. It's modeled in part after Vancouver, B.C.'s Port Mann Bridge across the Fraser River.

Some self-promoting: Libby Tucker took a "tour" of some of Portland's bridges with Wortman. That article can be found here:



Property owners and developers might not like it, but based on a number of considerations, building within a built environment carries certain unique obligations. Morally, ethically, and legally, they can't just build what they want because doing so guarantees a profit.

It's possible for the public to come to a common recognition of certain things that constitute "quality architecture", but requires active efforts at informing members of the public of what those things are. Many people don't know diddly about quality materials let alone quality architecture. The John Yeon Portland Oregon Visitors Center is made of relatively crappy materials, but is it quality architecture? Increasingly, more people think so because that quality has explained to them.

The Rosefriend may be thought by some to be a worthless worn out pile of bricks, which is exactly the impression that First Christian Church and John Carroll and associates is trying to create by leaving it in its boarded up derelict state, but people provided with basic knowledge can immediately recognize that at least externally still, it is a quality building from top to bottom rich in materials and detailing unlike anything buildings in the last decade have dared to invest in. Throwing such a building away is an act of disregard for the unwritten obligation to quality and heritage in a built environment on the part of an owner of such a property.

Of course in tract-land, there are a lots of houses and other structures subject to a variety of factors that make them of questionable to negligible value. Often though, issues and objections raised in regards to their destruction have to do with much more than the quality of each individual structure. Again, it's the built environment and what it uniquely represents to a particular area that is often what comes to fore when such objections are raised.

Quality changes to the urban and urban residential neighborhood that incorporate and conserve commonly recognized quality architecture can be accomplished if residents, city leaders, property owners and developers work with and co-operate with each other according to a mutually benefical plan.

Frank Dufay

Portland primarily consists of hundreds of square miles (about 150) of neat little rows of single-family homes.

That's not really true, and certainly not the problem. When our historic Thomas House site at SE 26th & Divsion got trashed it wasn't because there weren't alternatives --i.e. the ugly Plaid Pantry across the street-- because there was a "deal" that pencilled out. Development is very opportunistic, which makes sense, but it doesn't look at our built environment wholistically.

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