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The number of elevators practically limits the number of floors in buildings with such small floor plates.

Such designs are common in Vancouver and some South American and East Asian cities, but are not really built in the US.

If condo owners don't mind waiting for an elevator, then these types of buildings can work here in the US too.


I don't see Portland getting rid of height limits city wide but I'd be all of favor of it depending on the neighborhoods. That said,can you imagine the hand to hand combat that would take place if they tried to take height limits away from Old Town for example.

Lloyd Center needs help yesterday, but with SoWa and the West End taking off and the Pearl another 5-10 years from build out its gonna be awhile.


In the effort to create buildings that will be boring, ugly and run-down twenty years from now, Weston is truly the standard by which his many, many rivals must be judged. But the younger developers have certainly shown that they have learned much from their master.


This effort will be critical to filling many of the smaller lots that currently sit as surface parking or dilapidated 1-2 story buildings. Without some relaxation in height limits, it is very difficult for these projects to pencil out. Moreover, the impact of a tall thin building is far preferable to a massive medium height building.


It is suprising to me how a man who, with so much thought, did away with so many homes throughout to build sub-standard housing in my favorite quadrant of Portland -- Southeast, is now revered by Randy Gragg as the savior of the creative class' housing needs bugs me.

I had hoped that over time, many of the apartment buildings would be torn down so that hopefully, better developement could occur may not even happen. Some of the Weston apartments are now being converted to condo's. That means 40 more years before demolition.

A better outcome would be for the city to take over all of the apartment portfolio and turn them into truly subsidized housing for those most in need. Now that would be justice.

That would be the ultimate gift to Portland by Mr. Weston.


Well, first a response to the last comment - in every city I've lived in the West Coast (I don't know about San Diego, but I've heard) Portland has the most options for affordable housing. Maybe the Pearl doesn't have it going, but Montavilla isn't that far away - and Mississippi.

Personally I cannot afford a home in Laurelhurst, nor the Pearl. But I can live in a good solid affordable neighborhood in Portland and be a part of the city. So I'm not sure what the complaint is about.

Otherwise, I like the idea of moving away from these height limits - it's an important evolution else we'll find ourselves in neighborhoods with lots that are split up and torn down homes in order to accommodate the growing population.

Architecturally, it could bring a real vitality to the skyline as well. We have an amazing mountain we wake up to every day, the city could be a reflection of that magnificent place.


Based on Gragg's article and the tone of Weston's comments, I don't see any real obective being thought of by Weston with his proposal for eliminating height limits except profit. There may be justification for some waivers on point tower heights on an individual basis, but carte blanche opening the board as Weston implies seems reckless and opens the potential for big mistakes.

I wonder why Weston didn't say as a reason for removing height limits on these type of buildings, that he wanted to make more housing available for low income people. Or, why didn't he say it was because he wanted to insure the future of great old lower level buildings? He didn't even mention one obvious potential for such buildings: mitigating the obstruction that towers represent as barriers to the sun and light for people, parks and buildings behind them.

I enjoy Portland's landscape, comprised of buildings, hills, river and mountain. I would like future generations to be able to take in views of all these things that make up Portland, and not just from one or two pathetic viewpoints at Washington Park and Pittock Mansion.

If and when we need taller buildings to house people or provide places to work and shop, fine, let's build them as needed, but just throwing some crackerjack proposal around to see if some money can be made doesn't seem like sound planning.

Frank Dufay

Randy Gragg writes: Dubbed "Weston Specials," they were (and still are) much loathed by Craftsman-hugger residents.


Heck, why just abolish height limits...let's clear-cut all these icky, dysfunctional "craftsman" neighborhoods and turn the urban landscape into plantations of look-alike condo towers. Weston's Motel 6 apartments were only the beginning; when it comes to making profits off of neighborhood destruction, who says the sky's the limit?

Frank Dufay

Dubbed "Weston Specials," they were (and still are) much loathed by Craftsman-hugger residents.


Heck, why just abolish height limits...let's clear-cut all these icky, dysfunctional "craftsman" homes that take up w-a-y too much room. And turn the urban landscape into plantations of condo towers.


I don't see profit as a motive for the point towers as they are much more costly to build than lower slab buildings.

The structural costs increase significantly above around 240 feet due to building code requirements for redudant structure.

The ratio of building skin to floor area is much higher in smaller footprint buildings. The smaller the footprint the more costly the skin (and the future liability for leaks). With building skins for high rise buildings costing $75/100 per square foot this is a huge increase in construction costs.

Efficiency of the floor plate is also reduced. The need for added elevators adds costs and even with the same elevatoring , the usuable floor area for these small floor plates will drop from 80% for a slab to 60% more or less..meaning much more money goes into building parts of the building that can't be sold.

There may be a perk with increased sales costs the higher he goes although overall my impression is that these buildings don't generate more profit.


Why is it so bad that a business person would seek to maximize profits? That action is what creates an efficient economy. The reason I have this great, fast, affordable computer to type on and this delicious cup of coffee to drink and this comfortable chair to sit on is because some businesses tried really hard to maximize their profits.

Some of the comments here (DE's especially) make Hugo Chavez seem like a good guy.



obviously some people don't get Gragg's humor. I don't think anyone is calling for the demolishing of our craftsman neighborhoods, they are world class and mindset over neighborhood preservation over the past few decades have changed. Some great things are worth keeping around. I'm sure Randy and Weston understand that.

As for towers in the Lloyd and downtown, I think taller but skinner is the way to go since it will have minimal disruption to the surrounding environments as opposed to a 30 story squat tower. When you go into the heart of the Pearl, you can't see out of it. All the low rise condo squats block views of downtown, the river, the mountains, even sunlight. By allowing towers like the Benson, and making the incentive to build them more appetizing by removing height limits where appropriate, instead of offering tax breaks as has been the case in the past to build slab towers, it will allow us to have a better designed and brighter core with no additional cost to the city.


maximizing profit is bad if that's all there is to it...

companies that have other (and equal) priorities to go with pure profit do exist...sometimes the alternative priorities are design, sustainability, social causes...

despite lip service, developers have RARELY fit this model


pdx2m2, what, if you do not believe profit is the motive for building point towers with unlimited height restrictions, do you imagine the motive for building them to be? There are people out there with lots and lots of money to spend on exclusive tower residences.

nwig, it's not neccessarily bad that a businessperson would seek to maximize profits. It's bad to do so accompanied by an absence of regard for other critically important considerations. It seems important to very seriously consider whether it's in the city's best interests to have height restriction exceeding towers popping up.

Who knows what Weston is really thinking with this proposal. Maybe he's on a roll with this Benson Tower, and believes people will go with his idea.

Coming into town on 26 from the west, we used to be greeted with a magnificent view of Mt. Hood. This was more than a pretty view. It reminded people what Portland and Oregon and people residing here were all about. That little bit of inspiration came to be destroyed by the KOIN tower. Until recently, coming into town on that same route, we had quite a nice view of another vestige of what this city is supposedly about; a tall, graceful skyscraper (I think it's now the Wells Fargo building). That view has now mostly come to be replaced with Weston's drab Benson Tower. Thanks pal. Just a little more foresight and consideration for other things of importance seems in order.


And once apon a time we could walk along the area that now is 26 and see those views. We gave that up so you could drive. What is the point WS? The view from your car has been trashed, but you already trashed the view, the sound, the smell of that area for your driving convience.


I for one greatly enjoy urban landscape views. While I ALWAYS want to see Mt. Hood rise majestically behind downtown from Washington Park, or the Pittock Mansion, I also think views from lower elevations without the mountain, when you are coming out of the 26, or sitting in PGE Park, are appropriate in a city too.

What is new to me, I've never ever heard before even from extreme NIMBYs, is the desire not to build a tower so as to not block the view of another tower...why don't we just outlaw new buildings downtown altogether? Than, the 200 units in each condo tower can be sprawled out into 200 individual homes on our farms and forest, natural views, IMHO, I think are more worth saving than the 30 second view of the Wells Fargo Tower when you exit the 26 tunnels in a car. C'mon, priorities people!


I have to respectfully disagree with Marxdaman here. Pure profit motive gives those other socially beneficial results.

The profit motive results in lots of good outcomes. If you can feed yourself, and your family if you have one it is because of the profit motive. This was one of the insights Adam Smith noted well over 200 years ago. We often get life supporting/improving items not out of appeals to "other (and equal) priorities to go with pure profit...sometimes the alternative priorities are design, sustainability, social causes..." but by appealing to people’s desire to make their own lives better off. That doesn't mean those other things wont happen. GE, for example has a new green initiative, not because it is the “right” thing to do but because they think it will maximize their profits.

The people who create and build throughout history have not been motivated by "a desire to serve" others, but by a desire to invent, produce and profit.

From Edison to Goodyear to Gates, the people who have done the most for society do not dedicate their lives to the selfless service of others but to the selfish pursuit of their own visions. They charged ahead against all odds and persevered in the face of obstacles--not to benefit their neighbors but to achieve their own values and dreams. They did not give away their inventions so others could enjoy them for free; they sought to make fortunes for themselves and attain their own happiness.


^Hmmm, I don't recall talking about developers motives. Since I'm not a developer or an individual developing a building, it would be impossible to know if what they build is motivated of pure selfishness, I hate to think that's the case, but whatever...we were talking about point towers and height limits last I read.


I am sorry!!!

It was "ag"


Nwjg's defense of self-interest (or whatever it is) sounds like something that fell asleep during Reagan's second term and woke up yesterday. I suppose next he/she'll be wising us up about how the benefits to society "trickle down" from unrestrained profit-seeking.


thedude, the point is not related merely to the view drivers are greeted with upon entering the city on 26.

The point of relating the view seen by drivers entering Portland on 26 is to highlight the lack of consideration developers of late give to the aesthetics and other consequences that their buildings represent to neighboring buildings, residents and visitors to the city, and the character of the city in general.

From any number of viewing angles, not just the highway 26 tunnel exit, it's clear that developers are commonly disinclined to include innovative or accomodating design features that will enhance or sustain the city's aesthetics. By tooth and nail, they can sometimes be compelled to introduce such features, but on their own?

I said the Benson was drab, but since it's not done, that's premature. It will cheer up when residents move their stuff out on the balconies. At any rate, it's not particularly objectionable. It seems like it will be more or less innocuous. And, there are some benefits to be derived from carefully planned use of point towers. If however, Weston type towers like the Benson were to be freed from height limitations, would their effect be as benign? If the effect created was to some extent great, what factors would determine the point or situation where it was no longer so good? It's kind of nice to think about such things now, rather than after developers are given the go-ahead on such an idea.

Mike Thelin

Um--nothing in this city is built without profit as a consideration. Good for Mr. Weston--whatever his motive. As the market has already shown, big and bulky slab towers sell very well in PDX and are cheaper to build. It's nice that someone is thinking outside the big and bulky box.


That developers want to turn a profit isn't being questioned. The question at hand is how and why city planning and policy (e.g. height restrictions), which are meant to benefit the common good of the region, should be determined by profit-motive separated from larger questions of esthetics, safety, future development, other people's rights, or whatever.

There are always those who simplistically view any attempt to regulate business on behalf of the public as wrong. The point isn't to deny the existence of the profit motive, it's to assert that public agency is required to keep it from running roughshod over the larger needs of the people.

With regard to architecture, it has to be considered that the profit motives of developers do not take into account what will be ten or even five years into the future. Once the condo's are sold off, the developer has no reason to care about much of anything, though the rest of us certainly have to live with whatever his buildings have become. Weston's Specials in Southeast are a vivid example of this. It's impossible to look at them without wondering what was torn down to make room, back in the days when houses of the early 1900's weren't viewed with the respect we give them today. Therefore it can be expected that he will, with regard to the height-limit proposal, exhibit a similar disconcern for what we're all going to have to live with (and under) for decades to come.


^sure it can be expected that the man over time, as his wealth has grown and his mind evolved, changed his position on what he would have done back when, or, 'if he had the money he has today, back then, would he have developed those properties the same way'. It's a fair question to ask but my hunch tells me like most everything in life, some things would have been built differently.

The Weston Specials were built in a different era in Portland. Design guidelines, city planning, and redevelopment areas have restricted the freedom to just slap up a 50 story eyesore (a Weston Special on steroids). Giving him, or any developer, unlimited heights doesn't mean he doesn't have to pass the design review committee, possible city council review, and include aspects that would be required to go higher. Example, If Weston wants to build a 6 50 story buildings on the PPS HQ site, require him to build a central park, day care, 3 bedroom units, etc. etc. for the height bonuses. This could be a win-win for all but I don't agree with considering the proposal DOA because of the unlimited heights, nor do I think unlimited heights should give any developer free reign to slap up anything without concessions to the city.


You are kidding me right? The City of Portland granting a height adjustment? Come on, isn't everyone still complaining about tall buildings downtown (ie. Ladd Tower). It will never happen with our current city leaders. Neighborhoods fight every 5 story building proposed as it is, what makes anyone think that increasing the current high rise limits is going to get anywhere. Remember South Waterfront, the Allegro, etc. etc. etc... Portland has a bad case of acrophobia as it is.


There are plenty of examples of NIMBY and anti-height fights...that said I"m confident that the new review and update of the new Central City plan will increase heights. They may not be unlimited although I think the new plan will include many incentives for more height and many more locations where outright height increases are allowed. While the Mayor and a few neighborhood folks may be anti height in general I think the City as a whole will support these changes.

Frank Dufay

Neighborhoods fight every 5 story building proposed as it is

Not really. It depends on where those buildings are located. Our Hosford Abernethy Neighborhood has already voted to support the initial plans of Portland City Storage to build their storage facility on the Willamette. That proposal currently includes two towers, one 294 ft, and the other, 368 feet.

Closer to our homes, we've been supportive of a new REACH Development condo proposal as well as a new art-studio/condo/retail complex being proposed across the street from Rappaport's "The Clinton." (Though neither proposal has developed far enough along to ask for a vote of neighborhood support yet.)

It really depends on the project, and how --and whether-- the developer works with us, and addresses issues we --or immediate neighbors-- may have.

Weston's plan to campaign for NO height limits if the building has an under 8,000 sq ft footprint is awfully presumptuous, and ignores a building's impact on surrounding neighborhoods. Stand near the Benson, as I did today, lok at that tower and all the other new ones nearby, and try to wonder where all those cars are going, and where all the delivery trucks are going to park.


"sure it can be expected that the man over time, as his wealth has grown and his mind evolved, changed his position on what he would have done back when"

It's interesting that we speculate about Weston's current motives and the aesthetic potential of something that he would now choose to build when the real evidence of his taste and regard for the community is so abundant. Gragg's original article, the subject of this post, should have closely examined the Weston legacy and actually questioned the guy about his architectural record and intentions, rather than just blithely alluding to the distress that his apartment buildings have caused "craftsman-hugger residents." This from a professional reporter on architecture and planning issues!?

On the basis of the physical record, I'd say there's no developer in Portland less qualified than Weston to build large, enduring structures in the center of our city. What Weston has built so far is absolutely ugly and disastrously widespread. When you consider what he wrecked, how much he wrecked and what he put in its place, you have to regard Weston as one of biggest living architectural criminals in Portland. His apartments in SE are among the most vivid examples we have of how lousy architecture degrades the community and the lives of the people who inhabit it. Gragg's tricky effort to cast those structures as affordable housing for baristas or young creatives or something is laughable--and a deliberate attempt to quickly and dishonestly dispose of what is an ongoing, real issue.

Sure, let's have a discussion about height limits and the benefits of taller, thinner buildings. I personally think there's merit in building taller and thinner in many cases. But it's hard to stick to that theoretical topic when the more palpable subject of Weston's wreckage has been invoked. If there's anyone in town whose right to build should be taken away from him forever, its Joe Weston. And Gragg must know that.


Richard..good post.

I am not a "craftsmen-hugger" either so that doesn't account for my ill feelings about those Weston apartments.

Considering Weston is one of the richest guys in the city...$300 million or so...That buys alot of goodwill. Re-read Gragg's article with that understanding and then consider the politics of cash flow.

Weston's development legacy on the east side is criminal. Oh, I think they just gave him a key to the city.


I find it ironic, to be downtown, the core of the entire region, and focus on where all the trucks and cars are going to go if we build tall, residential towers. The 'point' of building towers in the core is that other transportation options are available, hence more attractive than driving. I doubt there will be lines of delivery trucks either unless everyone decides to buy furniture the same day or orders pizza.

Point towers have been proven to work as an effective way to achieve density without compromising light and decimating view corridors - check out Vancouver BC - a city with rigid planning guidelines.

Unlimited height is probably not going to happen. However, I would be much happier to see that type of density in the central city, than have it spread out in residential neighborhoods and beyond. Think of all those delivery trucks!

I also believe demonizing Joe Weston is counter productive. Those horrific apartment buildings are here and have been here for over 30 years! They are nasty, but nobody is going to tear them down and build traditional single family homes with big front porches.

Maybe Weston simply reflects the changing values of the 'consumer'. Maybe he does actually care about the city and its development. Maybe he wants to make more and more money at any price. The issue is do we grow up gracefully or do we build more monolithic slab towers. I don't think the last option is particulary attractive unless one is fond of the housing blocks of Warsaw.


I would be very surprized to learn that any developer conceived or favored the idea of unrestricted height point towers in preference to the so described monolithic slab towers.

That a developer has proposed such and idea more likely suggests of plans devised to utilize available real estate. Maybe blame it on Goodman for locking up all those full blocks he's using to make a bundle parking cars.

But seriously, I really hope that the idea of unrestricted height point towers has been conceived out of concern for neighbors view and the amount of sun their balcony petunias can get.

Dufay's point about an increase in the numbers of cars and delivery trucks in the area related to the needs of the residents of the Benson has me wondering.

Density obviously means greater numbers of people for a given area. Even with lots of public transit available, some of the people representing that density must, or can't resist belonging to a car. Beyond that, I'm not sure how many visits from delivery vehicles an average tower represents.

Frank Dufay

I doubt there will be lines of delivery trucks either unless everyone decides to buy furniture the same day...

Funny, as I walked by the Benson today there were refrigerators lined up in the street! I know that's a rather unique circumstance, but funny nonetheless...and, in the real world, that lane of traffic was unavailable to cars and the sidewalk was blocked off.

I wish we could say that, well, with all this density, people will gravitate to mass transit and the congestion will be mitigated. But I think of NY, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Beaverton...just where is density leading inexorably to a reduction in road congestion and improved air quality?

I want to believe...but we went from a DivisionVision "vision" that was pro-business and supportive of higher density, but the funds for street improvements have dried up (well, spent elsewhere) and traffic is now amazingly backed up around my neck of the 'hood, even as we contemplate ever more condo developments. It's hard not to get cyncial.

Kurt Schultz

Brian, I love point towers as much as the next architect. However, the reality is they can only be housing for the wealthy due to their very high cost. The real question should be: where can the other 99% of us live in the city as we continue to add density and how do we design this housing to be affordable as well as make a contibution to the urban fabric? Point towers are fun but not the solution to density. We need to look at other mid-rise models that have been successful in Europe, such as exterior breezeway access housing, for possible answers.


"I also believe demonizing Joe Weston is counter productive. Those horrific apartment buildings are here and have been here for over 30 years! They are nasty, but nobody is going to tear them down and build traditional single family homes with big front porches."

Why doesn't Weston himself tear down the horrific apartments and build something attractive? (And why didn't Gragg ask him that question in the course of giving him a forum to promote his vision for Portland's architectural future?) Weston still owns the junk he built, according to all reports, and he sure doesn't need to maximize every last penny of profit by making sure that he squeezes all possible rent out of the buildings before they collapse.

Really, I'm not going out of my way to "demonize" Weston. I'm not concocting theories of evil motives based on personal hunch or irrational animus. I'm saying that he's still personally responsible for the great damage he's done, he's in a position to undo that damage, and until he makes amends, there's no reason at all to believe he cares about anything but adding to his vast collection of money that he doesn't need. If we think architecture should be taken seriously, then Joe Weston merits our scorn. Or, to put it in a more constructive way, if Weston aspires to be one of Portland's great builders, he needs to be challenged on his record of architectural achievement so far.

And by the way, I don't think that the only way Weston could undo his damage in SE is by slavishly re-creating what he destroyed. Those lots hold all sorts of potential for differenct kinds of structures--from single-family homes, to duplexes, to row houses, to all manner of aparments, whether traditional or modern, to commercial structures where appropriate. Just about anything would be more huggable than what Weston has built.

Brian Libby

By the way, did anyone see that photo in The Oregonian this week of Weston having the American flag hoisted atop the Benson Tower? He also had some kind of stars and stripes tie on. And after making some poor guy climb up a ladder in the rain to hoist Old Glory at the Benson, told the reporter he asked somebody, 'Do we have flags on all my other buildings yet?' Hey, Joe, we get you're patriotic. No offense to the good old US of A, but I'm gonna go listen to punk rock and cleanse myself.


Weston is the primary investor for Hoyt Street properties, and has actually many times in the past several years stated his support for affordable housing and raising the bar for architectural design.

The Benson Tower started out as an affordable housing project - though not subsidized by anyone, it was just supposed to be much less costly to buy into a unit. And it is, although Weston's primary investor/partner died during the project, which probably muddled the project.

Anyways, it has been a long time since the 'weston specials' were his primary focus. After dropping $2 billion in the Pearl District, I believe he is THE MOST qualified developer in Portland besides Gerding/Edlen, no?

Frank Dufay

it has been a long time since the 'weston specials' were his primary focus

Yeah, just his cash cows. And contribution to neighborhood blight.

I agree with Richard, if he wants to stop being "bored" and establish a legacy he could put his energy into replacing or upgrading these really sad motel 6 dumps interspersed in our neighborhoods.



The Weston Specials are still there--serving as low-cost housing for either meth addicts or lucky baristas, depending on whether you talk to the people who live nearby or to Randy Gragg, who for some reason apparently wants to rehabilitate Weston's reputation. So that those atrocities cease to be Weston's "primary focus," as you point out, only makes the guy more disgusting in my mind. If there were any justice in the building-development world, Weston would be forced to clean up his old messes before being given the chance to make new ones.

As for dropping two billion or two trillion or whatever on the Pearl--since when does having the money to do something mean that you're good at doing something? The world is full of examples of well-financed abominations. If you want to speak to Weston's qualifications, then defend his buildings, don't point to his wealth. From what I can see of his aesthetic sense and concern for communities in Portland, Weston's great wealth makes him dangerous, not qualified.



At one point,I was so delighted to have a venue to go and read about architecture in town and what people think about visions and ideas about good or bad architecture. But lately, this blog has become a place to personally attack people, complain about everything and nothing. People who should not live in the city because they hate change and growth.

I'm challenging you to do your own research and come up with ideas..and quit using gragg's articles or anyone else..so this is a more credible blog. Let's talk about "Portland Architecture",it is the the title of this blog if i'm not mistaken. Lets be critical of the ideas and execution of the buildings. It should be discusion of ideas and visions, instead of what i just read on this post..



Raya, I'll miss some of your good ideas if this means you're bowing out, although this last defensive plea is a bit puzzling.

I think the thoughts expressed on this post in regards to Joe Weston reflects the greater responsibility that any person in Joe Weston's position of power inevitably bears to some extent. Through his ability to draw on vast resources that go to the construction of many buildings, some of them very large, he holds in his hands the power to dramatically affect the life of hundreds of thousands of people, often in one fell swoop.

They may not legally be obliged to, but morally and ethically, such people had better recognize and demonstrate that they respect the seriousness of that burden or take the consequences. Many people who find legitimate reason for concern over a person's actions, regardless of how large or small they may be, feel a moral responsibility to respond.

Some people are going to be more upset than others about a person's actions. If they're out of line in the manner of expressing their objections, those feeling this to be the case should say so directly.

For myself, of what I know, I like some things about Weston; his hard work ethic, his charitable and humanitarian efforts. Other things about him, give me cause for concern. I don't think he's a demon, I just think some of his work and his comments suggest that he's missing critical components neccessary to qualify him as a truly positive force for Portland's future in terms of the architecture he produces and the effect it stands to have on the livability and function of the city.

Are you really suggesting that we not raise such concerns on this blog?


Richard: practically everything built in the United States from 1960 through 1990 was complete crap. There were a fex exceptions, including the Case Study Houses, stuff by Eisenmann, Kahn, Mies, and a few select others.

However, Mr. Weston certainly wasn't hiring starchitects back then. Can you say that there were any good multifamily housing designs that came out of that period? Would a 15 story concrete slab tower have been more appropriate for SE Portland?

You know, those buildings DO provide housing opportunities for residents in the city. Yes, they have parking lots, are made of cheap materials and so on, but they do function and are affordable. I was not around when they were constructed, and do not know what happened to the original buildings on the lots before them. Were they rundown older housing stock?

Most of the renovations and rehabbing of old housing didn't start until the 90s... so many of those older houses were not kept up in very good condition, leading to them falling apart and becoming unrecoverable eyesores in the city. Not saying that is the case, but you can't expect every single old house in the city to be saved, either. The needs of residents in the city evolve over time, and if the government (which is a public entity) can't push forward a progressive plan to deal with housing, industry, environmental issues and so on, then are we really surprised when the private sector ends up simply responding willy-nilly to market demands?

Oh, and btw - to this day virtually every city in the US fails to truly plan in any meaningful, comprehensive and effective way besides spot-zoning for economic opportunities pushed forth by developers.

That's a failure of the SYSTEM, which you can't exactly blame on specific individuals just because they built something. It's a complete SOCIETAL failure, and every man, woman and child in this country shares part of the blame because of their apathy.


So now that these "weston specials" are there, what do you propose? Tear them all down and replace with parking lots? Do you have a couple billion sitting around to rehab them, or tear them down?

Have you considered the environmental consequences of tearing down thousands of apartment buildings and sending the waste into landfills? Quite possibly some creative renovations could make them fit into the neighborhoods better, as well as introduce some green/energy efficiency features into them.

Brian Libby

Raya, I welcome criticism of the blog, but I think it would have been better form to email me personally - at brianlibby@hotmail.com.

I'll be the first to admit I have made some mistakes over the months/years with this blog in terms of research, opinions, etc. However, I don't understand your taking issue with this post. First of all, the attitude wasn't one of criticism, of Weston or otherwise, but an invitation for others' opinions.

If you're referring to personal attacks in the comments section, I agree that it should not get ugly, but I am extremely hesitant to delete peoples' comments. It feels like censorship. I've done it a couple times but didn't feel good about it.

As far as referring to other peoples' articles, I think that's part of what a blog is. I think of readers coming not just for my thoughts but for information about other media with relation to architecture in Portland. Besides, sometimes I think that kind of meta-media criticism is very important.

My goal for the blog is to mix references to other people's writings and efforts with reporting and opinion of my own. Sometimes I don't get to do as much direct reporting for Portland Architecture as I'd like, because I have a full time job as a freelance journalist and am often very, very, very busy with that. I try to devote as much time to the blog and reporting as I can, but sometimes the blog has to take a back door for short periods.

I welcome your continued participation on the blog as reader and/or commenter, but departing is certainly your liberty. Still, I find your lack of faith disappointing.

Brian Libby

Also to Raya and everyone else: I want to re-emphasize that I am always looking for ideas with respect to projects and other stories to post.

If there are others who feel like Raya does, that there is some ideal blogging style that I haven't attained, or stuff I should write about but haven't, I urge you to email me at brianlibby@hotmail.com with your constructive, positive, tangible ideas.


Re: Bill's comment above:
A criticism of Weston's tacky SE Portland apt buildings hardly carries the implication that they should be pointlessly torn down. Nor do those of us who recognize that plenty of them are clearly reaching the end of their ugly lives fail to understand that cheap housing is often exactly what Weston's apartments have now revealed themselves to be, which is initially dreary design and thoughtless construction inevitably becoming an ugly accomodation for those living on the cheap.

Weston, in the context of his desire to convince the city that developers should be allowed to do whatever they want--simply because they want it and because the market, for the moment, appears to be willing to make it profitable--can't be defended as someone who has provided inexpensive housing. In decades past he tore down inexpensive housing to build what were market-rate apartments. They became cheap housing exactly because they were built to become garbage after a few decades. And if it's unclear what was demolished to make room for them, look a ways up or down the street until you find the Victorian that survived the 60s. Because it was in most cases two or three of those, and they'd been there nearly a century, surviving neglect and tenants more sturdily than their replacements could have been expected to.

As for everything built '60-'90 being complete crap: it takes time to see what's crap and what's not. We will see if the current trends in city residential architecture occupy a place in the future much different from Weston's Specials current status. Given that the level of craftsmanship and care seems to have been in permanent decline and that material costs constantly rise, it is only design itself that can give present development a place of regard in the future. But there has hardly been, as Bill implies, some sort of architectural renaissance following a 1960-1990 Dark Ages. In fact, without the now-typical 60's retro lines of our presently celebrated condo and mixed-use stars they have, in my opinion, little to offer beyond minimalism justifying its own cheapness.

Plenty of recent development may very well look terrible after thirty years of Oregon weather. What excites the professionals in this business (because it smells like money and progress) and what the architecture fans think looks like art (because it's new and un-eroded) may very well provoke, 30 years from now, the same response most people have regarding Weston-type buildings of the past: "What the hell could they have been thinking?"

I agree with Richard above that it's a no-brainer to predict Weston's performance based on his career, and ludicrous to assign some authority to him based on how much money he's made. That wealthy developers, in general, have so much influence on the city's planning efforts is something we are going to regret in the future, when many of their utterly unoriginal boxes make us all wonder why nobody ever takes a real, agenda-less perspective on the cannibalism of urban renewal.


I disagree, I've lived in many Victorian homes in Portland that were utter pieces of crap. One had wiring dating back to the 1920s and no heat, the other one leaked a huge amount of water everytime it rained. The basement flooded. There was no insulation.

The Victorian next to that one, incidentally, had a $400,000 renovation - jacked the house up, tore out and rebuilt the foundation, then tore the house down to the frame and rebuilt it. Many older houses might LOOK neat from the outside, but they are actually very much outdated and very uncomfortable to live in.

At least Weston's 'POS' apartments are modern, and that is usually the only thing people care about: a warm, comfortable place to live.

And you must be completely blind to the international architectual movement the past 15 years to not believe that there is any difference with architecture today and in the 60s-90s!

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