« Designing (and Developing) a Kaven For North Portland | Main | The Road to Better Roads »


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


i've lived here for 35 years and the Rosefriend building sucks. i'm glad it's being torn down. yeah it's old but that's about it. there's bad historic buildings too and Rosefriend is one of them. new portland is here baby...live in it or move


Thanks for your words of wisdom, Josh. Or should I say, 'Baby'?


Thanks, Brian, for your early advocacy for saving the Rosefriend and for your continued attention to the architectural crime of tearing it down.

What a terrible loss. I can barely stomach looking at those photos.


Shirtless man is a sage for our time.


Drink a stiff martini or anything double and you'll get over it. I don't think the building sucks but it was not that attractive, impressive, original, or beautiful as you claim (I think)...um baby.(I like that kind of casual talk....) Although I don't see the new Portland as clearly as Josh. Where is my new concert hall? Where is my Cleopfil designed condo tower? Where is my signature bridge? Where?


It was a great example of an early 20th century apartment building - in a part of town (east of the park blocks) that has lost much of its historic character. The Rosefriend and the carriage house should have been saved (and protected as local landmarks) but that's a product of the property rights mindset blended with pure capitalism. Watching the video on the Oregonian's site, shows the incredible waste of materials- and we call ourselves such a sustainable community. And, I thought the developers were going to preserve the entry arch integrating it into the new building. It looked to me like that was destroyed too. If this is "new Portland" then no wonder I feel like moving away after more than 35 years in the area.


what exactly makes it a "bad" historic building? is it the fact it actually has character and isn't a bland, completely rectilinear building like every other new construction project going up today


The thing that angers me about the Rosefriend demo, as I and others have written here before, is that it was surely preventable. Perhaps it could have been prevented by better historic regulations. But more crucially, for me, it could have been prevented by responsible action, civic leadership on the part of the owner.

The church could have gotten its parking, it could have profited from a quarter-block development on the site of its outdated addition, and the Rosefriend would then be part of a block that would be better, richer. It's not about status quo vs. change, but about the QUALITY of the change that takes place. The Church did not sponsor a creative solution. They went for the bottom line pure & simple.


What does this say about the state of architecture? I have to agree with the shirtless man, I have absolutely no faith that today's architects have the ability to design something better then this rather nice, but average turn of the century apartment building. And I believe that even if an architectural firm had complete design control and a reasonable budget. We'd get a sterile minimalist glass box, or "jewel" as they like to call it now a days. Sad really.


Much as Modernism has prevailed so as to be omnipresent, it is interesting to see people attack it today as "minimalist", "rectilinear " even when by now it is a "historical" style. I am not trying to defend the building that will replace the appartments, it may very well be a failure. I just think (as I said before) you are overemphasizing Portland's significance as a repository of "historic" architecture. Portland is a frontier town that is too new to be "preserved" yet. It needs to concentrate in creating new architecture. This should be Portland's wisdom.


Interesting how, even though nearly a century has passed since modernism as a movement burst onto the scene, people are still uncomfortable by the prospect of "modern" buildings. I think that whenever people say they like buildings like the Rosefriend and fear that whatever replaces it will not be as nice, all their opposition really boils down to one thing: decoration. People like decorated buildings (and, conversely, dislike modern architecture because it eschews decoration). So all the architects have to do with whatever follows the Rosefriend is slap a few Greek columns and pediments onto whatever they design, and everyone will be happy!


"Portland is a frontier town that is too new to be "preserved" yet."

Nikos, are you serious? At what point does the city become old enough? If say, we don't preserve anything over the next 50+ years until the state is 200 years old would that be long enough for you? If so, how much of the late 19th - early 20th century buildings will remain? Just because Portland's history does not date back much more than 150 years does not mean we have no history! Portland already lost hundreds of important and historic buildings during the development booms of previous decades, which means that what's left is only a fraction of what we could have. That alone to me increases their worth, not just because they're old but because they provide an expression of how our city has developed over the years, giving a foundation for our very culture.


I love both good modern architecture and good older architecture, so it is disappointing to see some people claim that supporters of the Rosefriend are simply motivated by nostalgia. I would argue that this building, though probably not THE most important historic apartment building in Portland, is not merely "average." I have long appreciated the Rosefriend's original detailing, which was not just an application of neoclassical or neogothic elements as in many other apartment buildings of this era. Those who claim there was nothing at all special about this building are not looking very carefully. For example, the spandrel areas of the bay windows had stylized horizontal banding with an almost art deco look (long before art deco hit the scene), and the windows on the primary facades were inswinging casement windows rather than the standard-issue double hung windows. The overall design of the building was skillfully executed, with regard to both composition and proportion. This clearly wasn't just a cheap, cookie-cutter apartment design. It's too bad that a lot of people only see an "old brick building."


None should or will remian in 50 or 100 years. An earthquake will see to that. I admit my bias, in Greece anything less than 300 years old is not "old" architeturally.
You preserved the atrocity of Schnitzer Concert Hall with the kitchy egyptian revival decorations, it takes a lot of music to soothe the visitor in there.Keep up the good work!


The problem with preservationists is that they want to save EVERYTHING. Cities are live organisms that evolve, not museums. Cultures that are alive, tear down and rebuild, chose the best to preserve, modify as need be. How many previous buildings were on the site of St Peter's at the Vatican or even at the site of the Parthenon in Athens. Imagine if they preserved what they buit in the first 100 years.
Hausman bouldozed half of Paris, back then when they had some passion for creating something new. Are we a dynamic, creative city or nostalgic for an ornate pseudostyle we never really had?


anp, great comments and attention to those details that are now unfortunately lost.

Nikos, if I read you right, we better abandon the city today because its all going to collapse in "the big one," maybe tomorrow.

But seriously, your comments about preservationists are misguided. We do not want to save EVERYHING but if all you save are the most opulent buildings or those of the wealthy then you are ignoring the history of average citizens everywhere. This city is at a key moment where we can decide to respect an inclusive past or choose to ignore it and focus upon the immediate and the well-to-do. Is that the history we want to create?

Putting the straight historic preservation aspect aside for a moment, what about todays difficulties with diminishing natural resources? Isn't it a good idea to get as much use as possible out of existing structures? Innovation in adaptive reuse can keep a city "alive" just as well.

Brian Libby


The following was sent to me by email by the chair of the AIA historic resources committee, Philip Stewart, who graciously emailed me his comments first but also offered me the chance to make them public. I'm choosing to do so out of respect for the committee's efforts. Philip also has a point that in saying the Friends of Ladd Carriage House 'turned a blind eye' to the Rosefriend, I may have been fair. But a guy who loves architecture has a right to get angry and say some stuff when a building he loves is getting torn apart, don't you think? Anyway, here's the letter:


I take exception to your statement on the blog saying that "preservationists turned a blind eye" to the Rosefriend apartment building. There was a group who toured and analyzed the building. Paul Falsetto was one of them who reported to the AIA historic resources committee on their findings. Yes, we said that the interiors were pretty much a hodge-podge of retrofits and that much of it was rundown from the high turnover of tenants typical for these types of buildings. I do agree with you that the exterior is special - a fine example of turn of the century masonry design and detailing.

However, in keeping with the times, the exterior masonry is also unreinforced. You may have noticed that as the building facades were coming down, there was no rebar sticking out of the cells of the bricks...which basically means that any amount of underpinning while the parking garage was being built below the building could not have prevented it from merely crumbling down. Your statement of a few cracks occurring is simply not realistic. Unreinforced masonry has no way of withstanding the enormous stress that would have been placed on the building.

We had a discussion with the developer and designers and suggested a myriad of "preservation of memory" strategies. Anywhere from saving relics of the building for use on the site to reusing portions of facades. Whether or not the owners, developers, or designers chose to follow any of this advice is not my call or that of any other preservationist to make. They chose not to do so. In fact, it appears that they even ripped out the courtyard entry piece after seemingly committing to save it and reuse it as an ordering element on the site. As I recall, I invited you to this meeting earlier in the year, but you chose not to come.

Brian, advocates can only do so much. We spoke on the issue. You wrote about it. But in the end, it is not our call to make. As somebody who writes on behalf of the profession at the public at large, I hope that in the future, you carefully consider where you focus blame when our advocacy efforts ultimately fail. We did not turn a blind eye, we merely lost the fight.


philip stewart
chair, AIA Historic Resources Committee"


Again this would be a non-issue if people had faith in today's architects. The rosefriend was a nice average building, but I challenge anyone to point out a building built within the last 30 years that is its equal in PDX? We're in the dark ages of architecture, this is why so many get upset when we lose a building of value. We know it WONT be replaced with anything of quality. Its not modernity that we fear but the circle jerk of architects.

Brian Libby

I think The Dude's comments are overdoing it in this case. (Do I really have to refer to someone as 'The Dude' with a straight face?) There's a lot of really nice architecture in this city designed by local architects over the last 30 years. What I do agree with is that the average fabric building of today is less interesting and less detailed than an average building of the Rosefriend's time. That's the same everywhere, not just Portland. In Holland they have some of the greatest architects in the world right now, but even their work arguably pales compared to the 15th century skinny houses of old Amsterdam.

In lamenting the Rosefriend tragedy, I don't think we should blame ANY architects, be it today's designers in general, the architects of the Ladd Tower, or the architects who worked hard to preserve the Ladd Carriage House. I blame First Christian Church and weak preservation laws.


The loss of the Rose Friend apartments is a deep tragedy for Portland. We are losing yet another important historic resource in the name of greed and parking (thanks First Christian Church, your legacy in not appreciated!).

We are once again getting a ubiquitous glass and steel ice palace and Portland becomes a colder place to work and live. We have been robbed of an important piece of our cultural history and identity. Like death by a thousand cuts, Portland bleeds with each of these losses and becomes closer to being "anywhere USA". My condolences.


Reading these comments, I feel a strong force compelling me to argue on First Christian's behalf-though I have yet to attend any of their services, or even reconcile my long lost faith. That said, I'm not sure, but I thought the only reason the tower was built was to facilitate parking. The point of the parking is that the people that First Christian is trying to attract would probably have to drive to the Church to attend. Being located in downtown Portland isn't exactly the best place to operate a functioning church (with the exception of the Unitarian, apparently).
For those who don't know, Churches are not profit-driven. Churches are non-profit, thus they're typically exempt from tax. Yet in spite of this, churches still need money to keep their doors open (I remember many a fund-raiser from my family's church growing up). While it might seem callous, this isn't a callous gesture, but rather a desperate one-of an instituion which predates the Rosefriends. One can argue about the efficacy of organized religion, but if the concern is old relics, then one should be as concerned with whether First Christian would remain operating as a church as much as the Rosefriends apartment.
In truth, I did like that old building and felt a pang of loss with its deconstruction; the architecture of yesteryear seems to be the only warmth of our cityscape, now increasing concerned with the latest sterile postmodern box (even the "good" ones lack so much of the vitality that the older buildings possessed. But I'm just rehashing old words here, and besides I know nothing of architecture).


I wonder what kind of person Josh is. What is it to such people, that seems to make the proliferation of big glass towers so much more important than the continued existence of a vanishing example of older architecture uniquely suited in scale to people?

We live in this city whether we actually sleep here or not. Don't kid yourself....the Rosefriend building, disguised in the state of decay to some extent, deliberately imposed upon it by its owners, was greater than most Portland architecture of the last couple decades, and this bodes ill for the city's future. The loss of this building is a troubling reflection of the values and vision of this city's leaders.

Further notes:

Describing the Portland Theater (schnitzer) an "atrocity"? The Portland Theatre building is a great building, but it's a cinema, not a concert hall. And Paris by way of Hausman? At least much of what Hausman tore down were inner city hovels.

I appreciate what Phillip Stewart, chair, AIA Historic Resources Committee has to say about the Rosefriend's lack of masonry reinforcement in his letter to Brian, yet qualified opinions on this aspect of the Rosefriend's physical status never really seemed to rise above the level of unconditional dismissal where public disclosure was concerned. That's unfortunate in that it impaired the ability for a greater number of people to determine whether or not realistic means to conserve the Rosefriend Building could have been accomplished.

Snowden, of course, the church and what it can do for the community is important and it's important that it be able to arrive at some means to continue doing so, yet the means that the church elected to employ to accomplish that in this instance are not acceptable. The church did not satisfactorily demonstrate that it exhausted all alternatives to the destruction of this building in order to allow it to continue its ministry. It did not satisfactorily demonstrate that what it chose to do faithfully represented the ideals of an institution having humanity's best interests in mind.


If the Rosefriend building was so beloved by the architectural/preservation community why wasn't there an effort to designate it a historic building(say like the National Registry or some such). What is the process by which the city goes about designating buildings as improtant to the heritage of Portland (just curious)and shouldn't this work be done way before someone decides to tear a building down for whatever reason...
I am not against presevation, for the record, I just don't agree with your aesthetic judgement about the rosefriend or Modernism for that matter.


Unfortunately it's not up to the preservation community to "list" a property as historic. The 1995 legislature gave all of that authority to the individual proprty owner. Owners can even have a historic designation removed should they choose to do so. All we "preservationists" can do is publicly advocate for the preservation of individual buildings and seek to reverse that earlier legislation. To the city's credit, a few years ago they did tighten up local regulations as much as they could, meaning demolitions can be delayed but only for so long if the owner really wants to tear something down. This was in part a response to the potential demolition of the Ladd Carriage House.

Brian Libby

You know, the AIA has become more active lately sponsoring a sustainable buildings bill in the legislature. Why not make the design community's next collective effort be to reverse that 1995 legislation? I'd like to see the state have some more authority to save important architecture. The Ladd Tower is good for its developers. The Rosefriend, however much it may have needed serious investment for seismic upgrading and other reconstruction, was good for the architectural fabric. I'd like to see an investment fund (perhaps some sort of public-private partnership?) that assists property owners in restoring properties on the National Register. I'll bet the owner and developer would have been more willing to consider a program that included a restored Rosefriend if they could have received some assistance for saving it. Maybe they could have given an exception to height restrictions on the Park Blocks and built a tall skinny quarter-block tower. Who knows? But as the pictures indicate, it's too late now. I say the next legislative session we sponsor a 'Rosefriend Bill' designed to keep such things from happening next time. For example, there's a building a couple blocks away from the Rosefriend with a similar courtyard-style floorplan and brick facade: the Ambassador Apartments. How can we help them make sure their building stands the test of the time amidst pressures to build McCondos?


Nikos: "What is the process by which the city goes about designating buildings as improtant to the heritage of Portland (just curious)and shouldn't this work be done way before someone decides to tear a building down for whatever reason..."

That is a very good question Nikos. And to me, maybe equally important is the question of how a particular architectural example generates the kind of public interest it needs to mandate action on the part of state or local government to conserve or preserve important parts of the architectural fabric.

The way I see it, the public regards itself as generally disempowered where matters of historic legacy on private property are concerned. Under present conditions, preserving a building like the Rosefriend, relies almost exclusively upon groundswell activism on the part of key movers and shakers in order to keep such a building alive. Once it's done, the public loves the accomplishment, but initially where such a building is on private property, it's kind of hands off as far as the public is concerned.

People have different tastes and appreciation in architectural styles and urban environment. That's just a fact of human nature, but one that I don't think has to be an impermeable barrier between people of different tastes that prevents them from creating a great city. Some concensus amongst a far greater swath of the public than has a voice in such matters as things stand now, about what a city might hope to be seems in order. Modernism and period architecture skillfully wrought, can co-exist in a complimentary manner, and become great architectural environment.

To that end, I believe there is a need for greater consciousness of a right of the public that I think exists, in principal if not currently in law, to factor into key decisions about their city's steadily evolving urban fabric, even where a particular architectural example exists on private property.


In the East Coast city where I grew up, community anger over the demolition of a Stanford White mansion was the impetus for the formation of a really activist grass-roots historic-preservation movement that has succeeded in strengthening local preservation laws and accomplished a whole array of other remarkable things. Maybe the demolition of the Rosefriend will serve that same purpose here. If so, something good may come of it yet.


Well said and thank you Val, Brian and ws. The fact is money talks as far as the built environement is concerned (well, ok, duh) otherwise (for example) instead of those surface parking lots downtown we would have nice italian style piazzas, with cafes, fountains, trees, benches and flower stalls...(sigh). Truth is pdx has more human scale and pedestrian friendly public spaces than most american cities of its rank and size.

m. conroy

it was a beautiful building that will soon be replaced with yet another bland box. san francisco isn't a tourist destination just for all the new condos but for what they have preserved. many of their buildings were rebuilt a hundred years ago after the quake so they could be considered just as pioneer as portland. they literally don't make buildings like they used to with leaded glass and walnut floors. now it's dry wall and more dry wall and if you got some money, then travertine. such a waste. a shame.

Jim Heuer

As an active member of the Friends of the Ladd Carriage House, here are some personal thoughts in response to this blog entry and some of the comments:

There were three historic buildings on that block. One of them, the First Christian Church was threatened by declining attendance and a congregation that had largely moved to the suburbs. For the members to continue to attend "their" church, better parking needed to be provided.

There is an unfortunate parallel in Seattle, where today the surviving parts of their now-demolished First Christian Church are being sold off by salvage companies -- including the magnificent Povey stained glass windows. The Portland congregation is said to have seriously considered the option of selling off their church building (virtually ensuring its demolition) and moving to the suburbs. Their decision to stay, meant that at least the church edifice would be preserved.

The solution they hit upon for saving their church where it is -- construction of a condo building plus church offices plus underground parking -- required that at least one of the other two historic structures on the block had to be removed. There was much discussion of which one should be sacrificed (and a strong contingent in the church congregation argued for immediate demolition of both), but the ad-hoc group that assembled to sort this out and lobby for a preservation solution came down strongly on the side of preserving the Carriage House. Note that we were never given an option for preserving both buildings, nor was there ever an option offered either by the Church or by Opus Northwest for such a solution. Anyone who might have liked to put forth another solution was welcome to come up with the $25 million or so to make it happen...

In the contest between the Rose Friends and the Carriage House, there was really only one answer: the Carriage House had to be saved. While there are a number of 1900-1910 era apartments in the central city, including some designed by such notables as Emil Schacht (the Wheeldon Apartments at 910 SW Park), there is only one surviving relic of the Ladd Estate and a reminder of a day when successful capitalists actually cared for the city where they made their money and aspired to leave beautiful buildings and strong cultural institutions behind as their legacy. We will never again see the day when Portland's bank owners live within a mile of their main bank, but when we did, those owners cared for the city and its citizens and led by example... and built "out buildings" that were an ornament to the city.

To further clinch the deal, it was practical to contemplate moving the Ladd Carriage House. At first we worked with a developer who offered to take it to the Lair Hill area. This was not an ideal solution, but it did mean that the Carriage House might be saved. Later, with urging from co-developer John Carroll, Opus Northwest and the architects crafted a solution that permitted the Carriage House to stay on its site after a short stay a few blocks away while the underground parking garage was dug. From our point of view, this was a nearly ideal solution, as it allowed the Carriage House to mark the history of its site.

On the other hand everyone we consulted made it clear that the Rose Friend could not be moved.

Those who watched the demolition of the Rose Friend may have noticed that the walls crumbled at the slightest pressure from the demolition machinery. The building was an unreinforced masonry structure, held together with poorly formulated mortar. Any attempt to move it would have set up an enormous risk that it would simply have fallen to pieces -- assuming that a move route could have been found and a site for its considerably larger footprint could have been located.

Relative to this, the issue of the entry canopy has been raised in this blog. Let everyone know that the ornamental pieces from the canopy itself have been saved and are in secure storage. Their concrete pillars, however, like much of the other masonry of the building were badly deteriorated, and crumbled at the first effort to drill into them to place lifting devices. When the entry arch is reconstructed, the concrete portion (which has been thoroughly measured and photographed) will be reconstructed in more durable and earthquake resistant materials.

So, the point of all this is that the earlier arguments against moving the Rose Friend or of somehow incorporating it into a differently configured development on the site were accurate. While its ornament was delightful and a credit to architect David William's creativity, the contractor skimped on materials, making the potential costs of preservation prohibitive -- not to mention the cost of seismic upgrades. Frankly, this issue would soon have surfaced, regardless of the development plans for the block.

Ultimately, the Friends of the Ladd Carriage House, working with virtually no budget and only the power of publicity and community feeling on their side, faced the reality that not only was the Carriage House the more important historically, but also the more practical building to save.

The larger lesson for those of us who grieve over the destruction of the Rose Friend (and who were angered by the destruction of St. Agatha's School, of the Car Barns in Southeast Portland, and other recent losses) is that Portland has an urgent need to inventory its historic buildings and establish clear guidelines for protecting the most important ones.

The existing "Historic Resources Inventory" is hopelessly out of date and was incomplete from the moment it was published some 25 years ago... the Rose Friend Apartment House is nowhere to be found in it, for example. It will take political will and public pressure to move the city government to fund the completion of that inventory and designate the buildings that are deserving of protection. That way we can have the debates of which buildings are more or less worthy while they are still standing rather than running from one demolition site to another deploring our losses.


Jim Heuer, that was quite a clear explanation of the fundamental problem associated with moving the Rosefriend. If such a clear explanation has been published earlier at some time, perhaps I've missed it. And if I've missed it, probably lots of other people have missed it as well. This project has not been discussed on the kind of broad public level it is worthy of.

Even though I've strongly defended preservation of the Rosefriend, I've also said that preservation or a move wouldn't be advisable unless the building could be seismically upgraded to current acceptable standards.

I can see how a downtown church such as the First Christian church might be struggling to meet a budget for survival. Ideas and demographics change making this maybe a tough time for the church. Then again, fresh ideas can often rejuvenate what's been lost. With them, demographics can possibly return in favor of the church's continued presence downtown. Maybe the exchange of the Rosefriend for a parking lot, Carriage House restoration and a upper-middle to upper income condominium tower is their idea of a fresh idea.

Maybe through this idea, the residents of the condominium tower will come on down to church. Of course, they wouldn't really need a car to do that. There's also the weddings that the church hosts that probably bring in a little money. Maybe the parking will help the church in providing parking for the wedding parties it hosts.

I sense that you are sincere in relating that you and the Friends of the CH did everything thought to be possible to explore preservation or conservation of the Rosefriend, and yet perhaps some viable ideas did not surface.

For example, if the actual Rosefriend could not be structurally reinforced to acceptable levels of today, it seems entirely possible that an integral section of the new tower could have been constructed in accordance with today's seismic standards and to the visually pleasing scale and proportions of the Rosefriend. The exterior of the Rosefriend, or one perhaps inspired by it could then be reconstructed on this section of the new tower, or even better, on the NW corner of the block facing the Park Blocks.

Such an idea might have effectively worked to sustain the character and human scale that many people find compelling with regards to buildings such as the Rosefriend Apartment building, especially as they front the Park Blocks.

Did we the public ever hear that the church or developer seriously explored such ideas? If money for a more complicated preservation oriented project than the one finally decided upon was an issue, did the church or developer appeal to the public for help in this area?

I grasp that the the church and developer was not obliged to follow the advice given them by you and the Friends of the CH, so even if your organization had proposed some really inovative ideas for preservation, conservation or a building more compatible with it's location, there was no certainty they would have taken it up.

It's regrettable that the First Christian Church is faced with such trying fiscal woes, but through the means it has chosen to resolve them, it has irrevocably altered fundamental dynamics of the area including aesthetics, natural elements, and social balance in ways that aren't particularly admirable or consistent with an institution commonly thought of as, among other things, being concerned with the betterment the community.


It is amazing to me that the First Christian Church just doesn't seem to get the concept of Karma, or even "Good Public Relations".

All of this destruction for the love of Cars:

*The loss of affordable housing (you can bet the waitress that worked at Higgins and lived in the Rosefriend will not be able to afford to live in this new tower!

*To threaten to tear down the Carriage House, a beloved part of ALL of our collective history in order to get it's way with Parking! Wow, now that is manipulative...
*To break so many people's hearts as the RoseFriend was brutally mauled before their eyes... Wow, for a Church not to give a Rat's Ass about how people feel, now that is truly arrogant.

*Robbing future generations of their history... Look at how we mourn for buildings that those before us thought to be too economically inconvenient. Who are we to say that the RoseFriend was not worth saving? Those yet to be born may very well curse the First Christian Church for this selfish decision...

Somehow, I don't see Jesus creating so much collective pain and grief over parking... It is all so very sad. But as a friend of mine said, "Karma Works", and the First Christian Church as sown the seeds of some pretty bad Karma if you as me....


I blame society in general for not giving a shit about the built environment in the first place, and their obsession with minimizing the cost of construction, most inherent in the 30-year residential mortgage system.

In much of western Europe, your house will cost twice that of America. It is not uncommon to enter a 99-year mortgage for a $900,000 2 or 3 bedroom house.

America: the land of the quick and shitty.

If you really want quality and historic architecture that is cheap, you can move to Detroit. Otherwise, pay for it or move to Europe.

Brad Carlile

I shot some of the demolition as well, you can see it at:

I also shot some of the Ladd Carriage House move.


Zilfondel, although the apathy towards the built environment that you generally attribute to society may be a real, actually existing problem, it might be more constructive to try identify the source of that apathy, and do something to confront it.

I really rather doubt that most residents of downtown care little for the environment they conduct their lives within. In fact, a small percentage of those that care are actually able to muster the determination and time to go up against overwhelming forces that lead to aspects of the built environmnent of today that many people find pathetically lacking.

I believe that the remaining percentage of residents and other people that care about the built environment do not manage to put up much, or any resistance to those forces, due to conditioning and a sense of resignation to what they feel is the inevitability of those forces against them.

Most people going to work everyday just so they can put food on the table and clothes on their kids backs probably don't find they have a lot of time to sit around blogging, write letters to their representatives, or go to design review meetings.

In our society, money is the power. When the power of money is weilded with great things in mind, the outcome can be very good. When this power is weilded with thoughts that are far less distinguished, we get certain kinds of planning and architecture we've been seeing in Portland for quite a few years now.

Work-a-day people want a beautiful, healthy place to live, but long ago in america, many of them came to accept and hope, because they found themselves to be relatively so powerless, that people with the money capable of doing grand things, would at least some of the time, do great things.

Here in Portland, unfortunately, the people with big money interested in doing grand things, have long ago stopped thinking of doing anything great. As a result, despite the valiant voices of the few with the energy to protest against it's seemingly relentless spread, the built environment gets steadily duller and indistinct, aided in this decline by such monumental offenses as the Ladd Tower, whose hulking presence will soon loom high over the Park Blocks. This development represents a great loss to many residents and visitors to Portland present and future.

So, let the responsibility for this decline of the built environment fall to those who've truly been in the position to affect it with a far better outcome, but instead, haven't really seemed to care.


Kay, you're right, the church doesn't get Karma. That's a Buddist philosophy... They are a Christian Church. I think I'd be more alarmed if they did get Karma.

Also, future generations will not mourn the loss of Rosefriends, except for a few history buffs, they won't even know it was there. A dilapidated apartment building was torn down. Life moves on.

This was not a historically significant structure by any means. Does anyone know who designed it, commissioned the design, lived there? Yes, it had some interesting details, but so do most other elderly buildings. You can't save them all, otherwise you gut the urban core because nothing new ever get's built.


You're right Jesse, most people won't remember the Rosefriend. They'll just find themselves thinking, 'Hey, nice park, but right here, it feels kind of closed in with that ugly shiny build glaring us in the face'.


Portland today was ranked 46 out of 225 cities surveyed by Mercer Consulting for quality of living and 34 for Health and Sanitation, so quit ya bitching about the built environment etc, we are not that bad...glass is 3/4 full.
Just saying.


Oh that's 225 cities WORLDWIDE!


Nikos, if you want to live in a cold, sterile glass and steel world devoid of beauty, be my guest. There are plenty of places for you who have no appreciation for proportionalily, contrast, culture, history, stewardship for future generations, or anything beyond our self-centered throw away culture.

But I must ask that you at least have some degree of respect for those that do understand that there is such a thing as Art in Architecture and some compassion for those who mourn the loss of the beauty of the RoseFriend, not to mention the injustice that brought her down....


Be nice Kay, you know karma may come back and bite you in the ***.(You know how these religious superstitions are, sometimes they come true)
Who said anything about a strile world without beauty, or that architecture is not (also) art. You are dealing in stereotypes here. You obviously have no taste if you think the Rosefriend loss is a blow to Portland architecture (such as it is)


FROM THE WW:QUOTE/Eames-loving design nerds citywide are geeking out to their minimal techno music on rumors that Portland's Skylab Design Group is doing schematic drawings on a tall condo tower at the corner of Southwest 12th Avenue and Washington Street . Mainly regarded as the highly talented interiors firm that drew up the Doug Fir and gave Lenny Kravitz a pimped-out Miami Beach pad, a 30-story Skylab tower would probably be the city's most iconic and would shimmer well and good next to the sleek 22-story high-rise that PDX airport designers the Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership and Gerding Edlen are currently erecting right across the street./END QUOTE

With global warming and the need for denser, more energy efficient cities where people live and work within walking or short commuting distance, we'd better get used to tall(er) buildings in Portland.


Oh yeah, 'all hail Nikos, lord arbiter of acceptable aesthetic taste'. (Kay, just keep on keepin on. Somebody has to speak out against the yes men) I don't remember anybody on this site flat rejecting taller buildings, towers, or higher density living.

The objection has always specifically been directed towards the kind of idiotic self indulgently selective design and planning that results in towers such as the future Ladd Tower. Putting such a tall, mid to upper income tower on the Park Blocks was an unwise precedent that is unfair to many people of more modest income levels as well as visitors of all kinds to the park.

There were other blocks nearby where a tall tower could have built rather than the Ladd Block.


All I am trying to point out is that this specific building you have shed so many tears about was not as beautiful or significant as you make it to be. I am not defending the "selective design and planning" I want better designed new buildings too. How would you react when someone accused you that you do not understand that "there is such a thing as Art in Architecture". So, Kay, dear, I am sure you have plenty of good taste, I just do not agree with you on the RoseFriend merits.
As for rejecting tall buildings, maybe you do not "flat rejet them" but I bet you there would be no tall building Kay would find "proportionate" or not "sterile". You are the ones who are trying to be the "arbiters of acceptable aesthetic taste" by attacking personally whoever does not agree with your idea of Portland as a 19th century European city (which it never was.)
Having said that Portland will probably never be an architeturally exciting place for many reasons. 1. Not enough money
2.Not enough civic ambition, despite promising local design elements 3.Too much design by commitee (everything has to approved by everyone)4. A general suspicion of everything polished, chic or "upscale" (what Seattle is going for)5.Not enough money.


Well, the reason Portland lacks for architectural excitement, is not because "committee" shoots down exciting architectural proposals (when is the last time a really exciting architectural proposal was submitted to design review? Oh, I suppose that would be Moyers new Park Av tower....), but because developers shy away from imagining anything exciting to submit. Instead, they consistently go for the money, and their big, looming testimony to absence of intelligence or creativity towers over Portland for decades. Give them a choice piece of property such as the Ladd Block, and look at what they propose to build. Well, there's a big ol' glass tower for you.


I agree with your observation that developers are showing a lack of imagination in design. Would hiring Cleopfil (By way of example) to design a condo tower result in something exciting? Who knows. Is he too expensive for developers to hire? Obviously developers try to maximize profit, and you can see that by the quality of the interior materials and finishes they use in all these new condo complexes (including the South Waterfront towers)


The First Christian church appears so fond of the free markets. Why not strip it of its tax-exempt status? Just see how the congregation likes it.


I guess it's easy for me to say what I'd like to see developers doing creatively, that actually they aren't because of economic realities. I'm sorry, but despite this, it's hard for me not to be disgusted with what goes on, and as everybody who reads here knows, I've elaborated at length on that here.

Perhaps it's not the developers fault that given premium city real estate they construct mediocre but profitable, or at least non-loss architecture on it. Upon whom or what entity should primary responsibility for great urban design ideally fall? It's nice when a developer comes up with something great, but is it reasonable to expect them to make that their consistent, primary responsibility?

Even me, with my extended comments on this subject would have to say "no". A city needs visionaries to orchestrate the development of the city towards its most ideal, practical state. Among other valid definitions, a visionary is one that is aware of the budgetary realities realities, but is enthusiastic enough, and determined enough to find a way to successfully go beyond such realities in order to accomplish something great.

The ultimately sad, philandering Neil Goldschmidt seems to be readily acknowledged as such a visionary. On a smaller scale, I suppose Vera Katz was one also. Anybody that can take a long-shot on turning a decrepit 100 yr old stone armory into a vital new building has got to be some kind of visionary. Or, maybe even that guy, Brennke, that re-did the Crane Bldg, instead of tearing it down to put up a slick new piece of crap, although this building is quite a ways away from the kind of stellar downtown real estate, that the Ladd Block is.

The city has the design review committee, and I think, given the level of authority extended to them, they do a pretty good job. Maybe individual members of the committee have various ideas about the latitude their positions give them to be visionary in the execution of their judgments, but I really don't think we can expect of them, the kind of visionary thinking Portland needs to reverse this monotonous trend of mediocre architecture on stellar real estate that has been going on for some time now.

Portland really needs somebody to take the initiative to go up against the relentless, unimaginative design routine that happens here over and over again. The city needs new ideas and strong people with the moxie to make it happen. The city needs a more city friendly version of now deceased NYC planner Robert Moses, if such a thing is possible.

I suppose any developers that have chanced to read comments here, including mine, are pissed or simply dismissive that anonymous persons could lodge such critical words against their efforts. Really, these words are actually kind of a desperate plea for at least some of those developers to wake up and realize their own personal undiscovered creative vision, in addition to the practical fiscal ability they are like to rely on so heavily at the expense of creativity.


Seeing the Rosefriend demoed for parking and a tower utterly out of scale with the Park Blocks was disturbing enough. But almost more disturbing is the total material poverty of the tower going up in its stead. The faux-marble veneer, most likely honeycomb-reinforced panels of some sort, are of an incredibly banal and tacky beige (to be counterpointed no doubt with blue-green glass above and some wood slats somewhere). But beyond the cheapness of the materials, the installation already appears to be in deep trouble, with misalignments and excessive gaps already prevalent. This one is clearly being done on the cheapest of cheaps. From across the park blocks, I honestly thought I was seeing plywood underlayment for some sort of masonry veneer--to see that this was the finish material was a final stab from the grave of the Rosefriend. In my work, I am a pragmatic, not purist, preservationist and a traditionalist in new construction; but debates about "nostalgia" and "decoration" aside, I think even the most ardent Lil' Corbusian would admit that this sort of paucity of craft and material degradation is an epidemic in bottom-line-driven, unregulated construction. This one is going to to make the laughably boring 70s-80s "contributions" to the Park Blocks look like, well, the Rosefriend.

used digger trucks

many people didnt want to see this building go but it needed to be done. This building could have caused some serious damage

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