« Referendum on PDC | Main | Miller Time »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Normally I wouldn't say this, but this *would* make such an awesome modern condo project. Or if not that, maybe Design Within Reach should turn it into a store. Their furniture would fit perfectly into that building. :) I hope someone does something with it.


I've always liked it as well but that being said with modern codes being what they are I always assumed it would eventually be demolished though it is on a pretty tight site so that may be difficult.


And I think a developer could be forgiven for taking major liberties with the inside (gut it, in other words) so long as the exterior is preserved and celebrated.


What's the structural status of this building? What's it going to require in terms of seismic upgrades, or, would it's structure lend itself well to additional floors? Besides the checkerboard exterior, what other redeeming features does this building have?


I was curious to see how much they were asking for the property but I didn't see it listed on their website.

Another interesting historical note on the building, the Dandy Warhols recorded one of their albums there. You can see it in the really great documentary, even if you don't like the band, "DIG".

Frank Dufay

I walk by this building all the time, and I agree that somehow it should be preserved. But can't we admit it's also kind of fifties butt-ugly?

Brian Libby

Frank, I can't speak for others, but I have to disagree. I think it's beautiful, if a little decayed. But the visual look is precisely why I want to see it preserved.

Frank Dufay

I'll try looking at it with new eyes. But faded pumpkin orange and lime?

I mean, I DO like the building. :-)


It's not the faded pumpkin orange and lime that appeal so much as a simple but colorful pattern. If you shrunk that facade into a frame, it'd be minimalist art. Granted, that kind of stuff is not for everybody, though. Still, I respond to a building that has color, even faded color like that, and a compelling but simple sense of pattern-making. It's the forerunner, in that sense, of buildings like the Eliot condos.


This is a case of elevating the extremely mundane, possibly even inconsequential to a status probably far, far above it's worth. This colorful exterior is nothing special. It's modern, but really, it could be easily duplicated on any number of structures. It's just a grid with squares colored in.

Maybe the building's location relative to its contrast with other buildings surrounding is what keys people's interest. In this destroy develop town, I'd say good luck to any thoughts of preserving this building on site into the future.


I have to agree with WS here. The reality is that this building is nothing more than an intersting color composition. It's simple aluminum storefront with painted infill panels. I agree that I've always liked the look of the building, but is it really worth saving or comparing to the Rosefriends, which I admit I didn't favor saving either. But becuase of the tight site, it just might remain.


I'm sorry, I really dislike this building. I remember my first week in Portland a few years ago I walked past this building and hated it. I know it's "uncool" these days to diss the mid-century modernism (although honestly, is it STILL modern?), but aesthetically I find it really uninteresting and completely dated. I know I'm in the minority, but I really don't care for the trend (which someone correctly pointed out is a successor of this checkerboard building) of the blander-than-bland, cold, harsh architecture of condos in Portland, i.e., The Elliot and the new 937 tower in the Pearl. Honestly, all these building are boring and pretty much the same. I wouldn't miss the checkerboard building for one minute. Having said that, I'm really upset about the demolition of the Rosefriends Apts. That is a prime example of a beautiful old building with alot of character being destroyed for more condos...and honestly, does Portland NEED more condos at this point?


The checkerboard is modern in it's styling. It's an example of what's possible with simplicity. Just taking advantage of the properties that squares and rectangles in relationship to each other can offer provides potential for creative expression. Based on this example, you can figure the odds that something will be done to preserve the checkerboard building.

The neglected John Yeon Portland Visitors center at the waterfront does well with that potential.

Mondrian. That's the painter whose style strikes me as partially inspiring this building's style.

I think knocking down the Rosefriend with as little serious review as it did amongst development and planning officials is a great mistake. Now this, probably much more than in the case of the checkerboard building, is a sitution where something really creative, new and exciting could have been done that incorporated the vintage architecture of the Rosefriend. And yet, people in a position to do so chose not to.

How could they dress up the Eliot in that drab grey stone or whatever it is? It may have some nice amenities (one is that big stone plaza on the NE corner)but at least from the perspective of walking into town on Jefferson, that building sure doesn't seem to add much in the way of excitement or elegance to the city.


^ Really?! I think the Eliot is a tight building... probably one of the highest quality pieces erected in Portland in recent years. It creates an excellent connection down to the streetscape, and mixes things up and keeps' em interesting with the highly articulated facade. Not that I'd really like to have sideways windows in my own condo, but it is very creative from the outside.


I am quite fond of this little gem. It reminds me of the checkerboard luminaires designed for the '64 New York World's Fair. See these links for the myriad configurations and colors used.


The offical colors for the graphics were blue and orange. I know this may not appeal to everyone, but it represents a certain aesthetic and mindset of society of that time. Excitement of the wonders and possibilities of the Space Age. I want my Space Age :-)


The AIA really blew it. This was their opportunity to move their office to a burgeoning area, be on the ground floor of its revitalization (literally and figuratively), and have a modern enclosure to inspire its members. This would be the ideal use for the checkerboard building and save the mundane 1-story building in the Pearl for a new Ben & Jerry's or some other retail catering to the wealthy neighbors pushing Bugaboos.


Did the AIA really blow it in their move to the Pearl? Or are they simply acknowledging what so many before them have come to realize: When it comes to real estate, what really matters isn't design. It's location, location, location.


I've been inside this building, and it's like going in the belly of a beast. There are ribbed sections of concrete on the ceiling, which we were told were leftover sections of a freeway project (can that be true?).


I've also been inside the building quite a bit - I work for someone who used to own the abutting property.

The building is currently gutted, for the most part.

Also, the word from my boss was that the building is owned by a guy whose father purchased the building for him - and that he was asking far, far above market for the property.

If it was so easy to come by, he's probably not hard up to sell it, and will sit until the price is right.

Must be nice...

Isaac Laquedem

This is supposed to be the last building built in downtown Portland without a building permit. Paul Gold (whom I knew) was said to have taken the shell of a theater on the site, built walls on the side, hired unofficial construction crews to demolish the theater bit by bit, and then put the shell up. When it was built the squares were all orange. Mr. Gold died in 1980. His family sold it about 10 years later and the next owner, a man named Patel, added the multicolors. Mr. Patel also owned the hotel to the north and the Fliedner Building to the south.

There's another building with the same shell treatment near PSU. My recollection is that the orange squares were a popular and inexpensive nouveau building material in the early 60s.

Isaac Laquedem

Paul Gold was a major downtown real estate figure from 1951 until his death and deserves to be remembered in some small way; this building would be a good site for that.

Rich Martin

According to the blogger and virtually all the comments, this building's only "coolness" is the colored storefront system on the narrow east and west ends facing 10th and 11th Aves. Contrary to what is written by many, the core building is quite old. The storefront/curtain wall systems on the ends were added in a 60s remodel. I won't make an architectural judgment, but according to the posts I've read, there isn't anything noteworthy about this building other than the storefront. The look could be duplicated easily by anyone who wants a building with a mill finish aluminum storefront infilled with opaque colored panels. To use a holiday metaphor, the building is a battered piece of thrift store merchandise hidden behind the distraction of colorful gift wrapping.

metal buildings

Seismic upgrades are the way to go, especially in the West Coast. I hope the engineers can retrofit it similar to the strength and steel and metal buildings.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Lead Sponsors


Portland Architecture on Facebook

More writing from Brian Libby


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad

Paperblogs Network

Google Analytics

  • Google Analytics

Awards & Honors