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aa

It would be nice to see some renderings of Kaven's design that show context or even just a couple people. If I were a neighbor with traditional leanings I would think the design cold and irrelevant. Hopefully they will present warmer images at the community meeting. I don't know why we are surprised that BDS is a pain in the rear or neighbors complain about non-trad designs. Even in funky PDX, people are scared of what they don't know or don't understand.
I wonder if the designs would receive the same reaction if they plopped on a 2:12 shed roof instead of flat roofs?

george

anyone know the approximate location?

i own a house on n albina, and would love to stand up for modern architecture in my hood.

Eli Haworth

Ugh, between design review and conservative neighbors it can be extremely difficult to do anything modern in Portland these days. I'm working on a couple of projects that have had to be completely redesigned for what seem to be fairly arbitrary reasons.

Sadly, these influences do not make for better buildings, but instead cause architects and developers to water down projects to the point where the initial design intent is lost. The City Garden project initiated by Kurisu International is a perfect example of this. They started with a beautiful modernist design and have been forced by neighbors to completely change their design. the result is a brick-clad structure that doesn't really add anything architecturally to the neighborhood or the city.

I'll be at the North House hearing tomorrow and will speak up in favor of modern design. I encourage anyone who cares about architectural diversity to come as well.

Ethan

It is within an architect's scope of work to determine that a design will be contextually beneficial. Whether that is accomplished through ornamental or formal mimicry or via well-crafted contrast is the vital question. Too often, it is determined that ornamental/formal mimicry is desired. But this can be the fault of the architect for showing 3d renderings when what is really needed are site plans, floor plans, neighborhood diagrams, historical precedents, etc.

Aneeda

There's a perception that brick is somehow a part of Portland's architectural heritage and that it helps buildings fit into their neighborhoods. Nothing could be further from the truth and architects themselves are probably to blame for not doing their homework and backing up their designs with sensible arguments. If you want to do good design you have to a) have a backbone and fight these people and b) do your homework and take the time to educate people about the merits of contemporary design. Maybe if those neighbors want to pony up the money for the empty and unusable space created by pitched roofs they can have them!

Eli Haworth

I wish it were just a matter of architects not doing their homework. We've been actually required to use brick on a project by design review despite a very thoughtful and well reasoned appeal by the architects on the project - and this in an intersection with several buildings done in stucco (our material of choice).

I can tell you, from a development perspective, that the city design review board is making interesting design extremely difficult and expensive. We've been working with them for the better part of a year to come up with a design they'll accept and the result is a building with very little architectural appeal. In the process we've spent many thousands of dollars and will likely be criticized for creating an uninteresting building.

truth

see the following link, for the neighborhood notice for this appeal.

http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=151186

4054 N Vancouver

truth

Also, while I fully support the idea that the community design standards remove "stylistic" concerns from the equation. Mr. Kaven would have still had to undergo the same process, as he was asking for a modification to the code requirements. I am definetly not one to support the city and their meddling into design, but perhaps Mr Kaven didn't fully understand the process into which he was getting involved. Anyways, the city supported his decision, it's a neighbor that's appealling that decision. So perhaps blaming the BDS, at least in this case, isn't correct.
From my experience the Design review Commision doesn't grant appeals that are argued based on "style" concerns only.

td

Any architect or developer working in Portland faces all these issues on every project, every time, and we all know that the design review process is completely subjective. If its not the personal tastes of your BDS planner, its the neighborhood assoc, or abutting neighbors. Its not about detail, it comes down to style nearly every time. And most people in Portland apparently hate modern architecture. Propose a contextual building and the process will be smooth, do anything else and you will have a fight the whole way thru. If its taller than 2 stories, get ready for a brawl. Sad but true that Portland is as provincial and conservative when it comes to design as anywhere else in the country. It is odd that in a city that constantly likes to refer to itself as the mecca for the creative class, it can't help itself from fighting nearly every decent development project that comes along. The 'context police' are there to stop any bold design at a moments notice.

keith.d

People in these neighborhoods are relegating the creative muscle in this city to the dustbin; why would a small firm want to even stay in Portland?

On the other hand, I wonder what the architecture community might be missing in the way of marketing good design and advocating for regulations which don't put limits on their creativity and can result in buildings which are of our time - not 100 years ago.

And get the public into modern design with an annual event showcasing the latest in local and regional architecture placed in a public forum such as Pioneer Courthouse Square or even Lloyd Center. Or a design competition that results in a shading structure for some public place during the hottest weeks of summer. There are some aspects of promotion I have seen which I think are a great benefit - like the Rocket's open house. And with all the latest in green building, I think we're well overdue for an architectural lecture series in the benefits of modernism to the future - otherwise you're going to be having people working out ways to build 'green' craftsman style homes with corn based roto-molded plastic cornices and picture rails. (If they haven't already).

So, Portland neighborhoods, I'd love to see you break out of your box and start thinking that maybe a modern building next to your place - which sits on a modern street car line and was once probably considered modern too - isn't such a bad thing. Not to mention that such thinking would actually keep Portland 'weird' and unique, and keep your historical homes from being diluted by poor faux-historical knock-offs.

And architects, it's time to turn it up a notch.

PMC

I enjoy the mix of modern buildings mixed in the N. Albina neighborhood. I think it is unfortunate that someone has had to stall this process because of personal dislikes. I suggest the person who has the problem move out to beaverton where they can hide behind their neighborhood associations and stop wasting everyones time. The lack of these association is one of the best reasons to live in portland.

truth

Perhaps Daniel could clarify, but is the neighbor really unhappy over the fact that it's a modern building, or the fact that it's a triplex...she isn't too clear on her comments on the appeal application. Brian have you attempted to contact her, it would be intersting to get her take.

Jeff Joslin

I'll reserve the right to comment more fully after this exchange has run its course, and I won't speak to the current appeal, However, I'll make a few summarial comments at this time.

It's not unusual for the Design Review process and staff to be blamed for any challenges to design, and to receive little credit for advancing the quality and success of individual projects.

This is not an obstructive process, nor is it a capricious one. I take unbridled exception to anyone reducing the process to "context policing" or an individual planner's subjective view. To do so is to minimize the contribution the process has made to the overall quality of our built environment, and to advancing a tremendous number of projects - both modest and individually significant, -over the years. It also diminishes the broader purpose that the process plays, which is to represent and balance the interests of a number of stakeholders, including: individual affected property owners, property developers, designers and architects, neighborhood associations, and City Council.

To suggest that the process is biased against contemporary design is simply fallacious. We can disagree about whether certain projects were improved as a result of the process, or whether the pain was worth the gain, but there are a large number of inventive, brilliant, design contributions that have moved gracefully through the process, often improved as a result.

It's unarguably true that the process is not without challenges. Acknowledging "growing pains", and working to advance individual projects, the process, and the dialogue is fundamental to the work all of us collectively undertake in the design profession.

I inherited a process 15 years ago that was quite subjective, and lacked predictability. I know so, because I originally interviewed for a Design Review planner position as a practicing architect frustrated with the process. Over time, I believe we've re-crafted a process that attempts to work creatively, collaboratively, and constructively to advance projects in as consistent and predictable manner as achievable, and in a way consistent with public expectations and the ever-shifting design environment.

Design Review has been in place in Portland for over 25 years. I'm personally proud of the substantial role that Design Review Staff, the respective citizen Design and Landmarks Commissions. and the process have played in forwarding inventive, strong design. I continue to believe it be the right process for Portland and for this time. To my knowledge, it is the most successful and sophisticated such process in existence. One essential reason is that the system evolves and is continually re-informed by dialogues that individual projects such as this afford over time.


Jeff Joslin
Land Use Manager: Urban Design, Design Review, Landmarks Review
City of Portland
Bureau of Development Services, Land Use Services division

Daniel Kaven

Daniel Kaven - Designer of North House

I am glad to hear that Brian's article regarding my design has created the flurry of responses written above. It was my intention, in writing Brian Libby in the first place, to get people out to support modern design and to create a forum for everyone to voice their concerns.

I should clarify, that I do not blame the Bureau of Development Services staff for any egregious wrongdoing, though I did not find them to be particularly expeditious. Overall, BDS staff has been supportive of my design and has shown an appreciation of modern design. I do very much take issue with the Community Design Standards, which from what I can tell, were originally implemented 10 years ago.

In my informal review of what has been allowed under the Community Design Standards, including a 3 unit project built behind my own home, is that much of what slinks through the prescriptive process is what should actually have to undergo the review. Most of the smaller projects that I am personally aware of, that have been subjected to design review, are smart designs by hardworking architects. Most track home developers would never test the waters of having to pay a design review fee, which is in the thousands, and delay their project for months; they are going to take the path of least resistance - the Community Design Standards.

If anyone would like to read the Community Design Standards go to:

http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=53305

I hope to see many of you at the hearing tomorrow.

Daniel Kaven
William Kaven Design


John

I am very thankful for the design guidelines otherwise Portland would become a guinea pig of architect's experimental dabblings.

Neighbors are also objecting to a traditional design (one of the few in town) for a mixed use building by Ladds Addition so its not just a war against modernism as many here claim.

For proof of what out-of-place buildings can do to a historic neighborhood just look at Vista Avenue south of Burnside with all its bland concrete bunker towers.

Why do architects always claim that no city is progressive enough for their "wonderful" designs? I hear this about the most progressive cities in the country such as San Francisco, Boston, New York, Seattle, Oakland/Berkeley in addition to Portland.

Maybe architects should think outside the minimal glass and steel box for once.

FrankDufay

kd writes most people in Portland apparently hate modern architecture. Propose a contextual building and the process will be smooth, do anything else and you will have a fight the whole way thru. If its taller than 2 stories, get ready for a brawl.

That's untrue on several levels.

First, speaking of levels, our neighborhood association (Hosford-Abernethy aka HAND) supported adding a floor to a proposed retail/condo development's initial proposal...in return for more setback from the neighboring single-family homes (a proposal I floated as Land Use Chair). The project went through BDS' approval process without so much as a hiccup.

Two, both that particular project (25th & Hawtorne) and one at 26th and Division (Earth and Fire) are very modern in design...and we support them because they're good design, modern or otherwise.

In my experience, what we hear often from the architectural community isn't about "artistic vision" but it's about "penciling out" and needing every square centimeter of entitlements, plus "adjustments." That's why we see a lot of big, uninteresting boxes going up.

Finally...while I've no opinion on this particular case, I certainly don't see any context in which this design is suppossed to fit. There's no neighbors, neighborhood, people, cars...not even furniture in the renderings of the units. (Talk about design in a vacuum!) And yet the architect is asking for more. For what I'd have to ask. If the answer is really "penciling out" than don't make the claim for misunderstood and mistreated artist and visionary.

Also...when the Commissioner of Transportation is making the pitch --and I agree with him-- that there's been and remains a major shortfall for funding transportation infrastructure, don't be surprised that neighborhoods have concerns about adding density without being positioned to deal with the consequences.

FrankDufay

Neighbors are also objecting to a traditional design (one of the few in town) for a mixed use building by Ladds Addition so its not just a war against modernism as many here claim.

That's, again, the HAND neighborhood, and we're very much split on this proposed project.

The issue for some of us is the out-of-scale size for the Historic Ladd's Addition. For the immediate neighbors, who already have parking --and congestion-- challenges and issues...this proposal adds to the existing problems.

Despite what you may have read in the Daily Journal of Commerce we have not taken a vote as a nieghborhood association opposing this project. Many of us would like to see it succeed, but it's a very challenging location and triangular-shaped lot and, unfortunately, "penciling out" is a driving force behind it's current configuration and design.

Convolooted

I may be wrong, but I've always interpreted the requirements of community design standards not as a means to keep 'modern' design from neighborhoods, but a means to keep speculative builders from simply building flat roofed boxes clad in corrugated metal and smooth plywood for as cheap as possible. Remember, it takes skill to use these materials in an artful way.

Yes, it so happens that there are similarities between the pallettes of current modern design and low budget Home Depot specials.

td

Jeff makes some fair points about the DR process. No doubt it has prevented some truly bad ideas from happening and has improved several projects in certain ways. However, it is reality in Portland that we "design by committee" and thru the process that Jeff describes as "balancing" the desires of separate interest groups, strong design is almost always watered down to lowest common denominator. I wish sometimes all the critics and pundits out there (especially the local media) would go visit other cities where new and old architecture, short and tall buildigns, and historic and modern designs sit side by side. Places like Boston, or Chicago, or New York. It works just fine and makes cities interesting... far more interesting than the faux historicism that lanmarks commission wants in every historic district. Cities and neighborhood's evolve. Design should be allowed to reflect that.

Sean Casey

I think this "Architect as Artist" idea is a little silly.

A while back the sculptor Richard Serra said (I'm paraphrasing) that while architects are higher up the social (and financial) food chain than artists, they can't be both.

Sure, many have artistic tendancies. And I feel for those who have "vision", only to see it
compromised by clients, committees, red tape, budgets, etc... But that's the nature of the game. It's a collaborative process that involves all of that.

An artical about Rem Koolhaas's firm, mentioned how so much creative energy was wasted. Only a small percentage of the designs every making it to completion. most never getting past the concept phase. An artist needs no other approval than their own mind to create a painting or sculpture. Not so with an architect. Not saying one is better than the other... we need both. Just want to highlight the difference.

If a great new modern building is made, the architect much share it's vision with the client, the financiers,the builders, and so on. They all can claim to be "visionary", because without any one of them, the building wouldn't exist.

I agree with Serra. You can't serve two masters. Freedom or paycheck. Architects generally choose the latter.


Aneeda

I agree with much of what people are saying in this forum and appreciate very much Jeff Joslin for speaking up, but there is absolutely no question in my mind that architecture as a discipline - never mind how people practice it (good or bad) - is hampered by the general public and their lack of education with respect to aesthetics and its relationship to function in architecture.

I think one thing that has been missed in these postings is the fact that Portland has seen many very good buildings constructed in the last 10 years, typically as in-fill in well established neighborhoods. I certainly have witnessed it in my own neighborhood and we are richer for it. Very "modern" buildings designed by people who no doubt have big egos have been some of the best of them. Like them or not, I think architects and the profession have done great things for this and other cities.

Richard

"I think this "Architect as Artist" idea is a little silly."

Good point regarding the distinction between artists and architects--as well as between vision and achievement.

Much of what's interesting about architecture, it seems to me, is the many ways in which it's almost necessarily a matter of compromise and collaboration, and can be enhanced through that process. Often, certainly, economic concerns and unimaginative community design standards overwhelm aesthetics, and that's too bad. But on the other hand, it's not hard to find examples of a powerful individual architect with a big ego and a well-heeled client running roughshod over what many would regard as sound aesthetic and historic principles.

Wasn't it Portland's beloved Pietro Belluschi who, at the height of his power, designed the atrocious Pan Am Building that blocks Park Avenue and overshadows the beautiful Grand Central Terminal? We can only wish that the average people in the community, untrained in the language and aspirations of Modernism, had been able to stop the visionary architect before he participated in that crime.

Maybe "the community" shouldn't be regarded by architects as their likely foes, but as a valuable check on their egos and as potential collaborators with potentially worthwhile ideas grounded in experience of a place. After all, most architects in most cases aren't designing spaces just for themselves; it's other people who have to live in and with their buildings.

Also, unless an architect is never willing to participate in the design of an ugly building or the destruction of a beautiful building just for the paycheck, maybe that architect has no right to complain that the public is unschooled in, or unfamiliar with, the standards for good modern design. For the most part, the public's architectural education comes from what it sees around it. And in Portland, is it any surprise that the public tends to be suspicious of what's "modern"? It's not like a lot of great stuff has been built in this city over the past 60 or 70 years.

Craig

It’s really very simple. The public doesn't trust architects. Many of us see a discipline that has degraded to copying forms that are popular in architectural books or designs conceived in a circle jerk of architect’s egos, all with absolutely no regard for place. Function and location take a back seat to form and ego when today's architects are unleashed on the world. Infill development only emphasis the architects disconnect to the community and their oblivion to the functions of the city. Earn our trust and maybe the public will start to loosen the design rope a bit, but until the architectural community proves itself, design reviews and citizen participation should continue to police the industry.

a

regarding an eariler post, the earth & fire building on 26th/division looks FUG. but i guess there is really no way tell for sure until the building goes up. opinions on "good design" are obviously subjective.

Robert

Sean ""Architect as Artist" idea is a little silly". I don't even know how to respond to this ignorance! Take a quick study of history! Artists have been dependent on Patrons throughout Art History. The situation you describe to make architects different from artists is exactly the kind of thing that would happen to the great artists of the renaissance, wether the patron is the church or nobility. The small portable canvas(or paper) has only recently been considered anything more than a sketch or unrealized idea, "wasted creative energy"!

Robert

If you think people choose to be architects for the paycheck, you are talking about another thing you have no idea about. They don't make as much money as you think. Especially when you consider the cost and length of schooling and licensing. Please don't troll here Sean.

Aneeda

I think all this talk about the architect's ego is really a red herring. The problem is the suburban mindset that cries foul when new construction approaches and exceeds 30-feet in existing neighborhoods. The immediate reaction is to clad it in brick and set it back off the road like some bad suburban development. The last time I checked, Portland wasn't getting any smaller. The public needs to understand that our world is becoming a much more crowded place and blaming architects for that problem won't fix it. Only in rare instances do architects determine the program and density for a building. Architects can turn down commissions - and some do - but somebody will eventually come by and fill that vacuum. And that somebody is usually an architect with less scruples and less interest in designing something of lasting value in our communities. So bash the architects all you want, but I'll put up with the ego if it means creating communities with integrity and beauty.

Daniel Kaven

Daniel Kaven - Designer of North House

After a lengthy and lively 3 hour hearing yesterday afternoon, the North House prevailed.

Thank you to those that come out in support for our project, I do think that the added testimony played a part in swaying the design committee.

I have been asked by one of the senior planners to formally submit some suggested changes to the Community Design Standards. It seems that BDS is in agreement that their needs to be an update of the standards. If anyone in the design community would like to contribute some suggested changes, please do so and send them to:

design@williamkaven.com

Stephen

Ouch Robert, a little harsh calling out Sean for trolling. I think he had a well-reasoned post that was perhaps worth responding to, but in a more friendly manner. I don't think he was saying the average architect is wealthy, or goes into the profession for the money - simply that it's the rare architect who is given absolute freedom over a project, and when expected to give some ground and share the vision with the client they will. Because, after all, ultimately it's the client's building (and payroll) to do with what they please.

As far as the North House goes, I like the design and I'm glad to see the appeal was denied. But I also see a nasty trend in the comments here, one that pits architects/designers against the community at large (who are apparently design-impaired and reactionary). Portland has strong neighborhoods, and you can't discount that. Communication with neighbors (even when not required - see http://builtpdx.blogspot.com/2007/08/modern-is-good-for-
nopo-site-commission.html) could have prevented this appeal, as well as provided an opportunity to inform the neighborhood about the beauty and contextual variety a modern structure would provide. Architects who want modern structures should remember that their taste is simply their opinion, and doesn't make it right.

Jim Heuer

Some of the comments above suggest that we who live in older neighborhoods in Craftsman Style homes are somehow luddites for not wanting modern structures imposed into our midst. Does it occur to them that we are conscious of living in historic neighborhoods where the very fabric of intact historic and well maintained homes helps make Portland what it is and sharply different from Pheonix or LA? Many of simply want to preserve that fabric, not just arbitrarily oppose everything new being built or proposed to be built in our neighborhoods.

In the years from 1905 through 1910 Portland had the distinction of being one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. In 1908, Portland's building permit issuances exceeded every city in the country except New York and Chicago. Much of that boom went into constructing the then-"modern" neighborhoods like Ladd's Addition, Irvington, and Sullivan's Gulch.

Other U.S. cities like Buffalo, Schenectady, and Indianapolis, to name just a few, which boomed at roughly the same time, have since cratered out their inner city and demolished tens of thousands of those Craftsman Style homes that constitute the core of Portland's very much intact housing stock.

It wasn't very many years ago that Portland's "modern leaning" leaders decided that the ugly old cast iron buildings Old Town had to go to make way for something more progressive. We now realize that what was lost was a treasure of historic architecture and human-scaled commercial building that no amount of money or nostalgia can ever replace.

Let's not be too glib in criticizing those who are determined to preserve the soul of our historic Portland residential housing stock in this later generation battle to get "modern".

Brian Libby

Jim, with all due respect I think you're missing the point. Preserve away, please! We want historic homes and neighborhoods kept up and protected and celebrated. But modern architecture is not a threat, nor is a building a few stories higher than single family homes when that building is on a major street. Cities are richer for diversity, not only with people but architecture too. The problem with historic homeowners, in my view, is not their wanting to protect their neighborhoods, but in takind an adversarial, defensive attitude about the modern architecture and/or higher desity apartments and condos that will inevitably arrive as part of the Portland area's higher density future.

Robert

Stephen and Sean, I think Sean was the one being harsh (to architects). Perhaps I could have been less blunt in pointing out that his post was NOT "well reasoned", but actually quite uninformed.
Trolling is posting comments meant to inflame the general audience, and I don't know a better word for someone on an architecture blog insulting architects with statements that are demonstrably false.
My point is that artists have historically been very similar to architects in that they must respond to the people who pay the bills. I think Art history bares out my point. Do you think Bernini paid for his own marble? Even paint was expensive before modern times.

ws

"But modern architecture is not a threat, nor is a building a few stories higher than single family homes when that building is on a major street" Brian Libby

It is potentially a threat when it stands to dramatically change in an adverse way, the environment in which the single family home and family residing within it exists.

If architects are sufficiently intelligent and imaginative to conceive of and create modern architecture that is truly wonderful, they should be able to use those same talents to devise ways to minimize the negative consequences of their designs to such housing.

As we all know, this often does not happen. Views and sunlight get blocked for dubious reasons. Dramatically contrasting, insensitive modern designs made of comparatively cheap materials, get introduced into contextually defined locations, or are allowed to completely obliterate existing examples to make way for it.

Modern but not better, is not a worthy result for anybody with any sense of pride in their work.

Brian Libby

WS, I don't disagree with anything you're saying, but it seems to me like too often there's a weird double standard in which hideous projects get approved and attractive ones don't. I think that's the real crux of Daniel Kaven's frustration and that of other architects.

Brian Libby

Gang, someone emailed me with these comments that I wanted to pass on:

"have you or anyone commenting on the kaven proposal even read the original findings which supported the administrative approval? this proposal received approval."

"the debate should not be around style but around the relationship of architecture to urbanism. it is that simple."

I did indeed read the findings. It's true that the language is more about how it fits in than style. But it also seems like style informs those objections. Or am I wrong about this? Who else has read the proposal and thinks we have it right or wrong here?

ws

Blaming subjective preference for certain vernacular styles over others instead of the real reasons that modern designs are not approved with relative ease, is not constructive.

If the only issue holding up architects that want to see more modern designs in areas with an existing contextual definition is that part of the Community Design Standards that refer to style, by all means change those standards to allow for wider creative expression. In addition to promoting creative expression, doing this will also eliminate the excuse that it's the style of the project rather than other details that result in failure of project designs to be approved.

It seems to often occur that new projects, some of which are characterized by modern styling, commonly carry extra baggage that is the greater cause of certain projects not getting the prompt approval architects and developers would like. A few examples: Design is substantially taller than surrounding structues. Design seeks to close alley. Design seeks to narrow thoroughfare to create on street loading area. Design fails to provide entryway protection from the elements.

These are the kinds of things that really hold up introduction of modern design into established contextual neighborhoods. Of course, people have their own subjective tastes, and to that extent, they may not particularly like a dramatically contrasting styled structure next to theirs, but if it otherwise meets the criteria for neighborhood needs, what's the objection?

If architects seek the ease of design approval that tract home developers have learned to capture, the answer is simple: Let them create their own tract development in which the design standard is the modern vernacular they aspire to. In that case, each and every approval will be a slam-dunk for them, just like it is for the developers of tract housing. Then, there will be no neighbors to negotiate or reconcile differences with.


Jeff Joslin

Brian - I'm confused. You acknowledge that the findings supported the project, then speak to the findings informing objections.

The project - style and substance, form and materials, modern and patternistically reflective - were all supported by the findings. There were no City objections to the project, nor were there any stylistic impediments along the way. Once at the hearing, despite passionate concern about the impacts - visual, cultural, and density - a majority of the Design Commission was articulately and strongly supportive of all aspects of the project, resulting in the approval of the project and the denial of the appeal.

Jeff Joslin
Land Use Manager: Urban Design, Design Review, Landmarks Review
City of Portland
Bureau of Development Services

Brian Libby

Jeff,

My intent was to pass on Daniel Kaven's frustrations about the process. I'd tried to point out that the City approved the design and that this was about the appeal. But the text I read in the appeal seemed to either explicity or implicitly have to do with architectural style as well as integration with the existing neighborhood fabric. In my mind, sometimes those two things are not mutually exclusive. Truth be told, I get a little confused by all of this as well, though.

Robert

The neighborhood discontent with this project is featured in the inPortland insert in today's Oregonian.
I wouldn't have minded well resoned opposition, but this sounds like pure neighborhood nostalgia for gabled roof bungalows.
The Design Commission points out some efforts by the architects to make this project fit while still being "green" and "of our time".
It's such a melodramatic piece with lots of sappyness: "As commissioner cast their votes, she wiped a tear from her cheek". When you disregard the neighbors opinions it actually makes some points in favor of modern design.

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John

That shit that Caven proposes, along with all the other "contemporary" structures, aren't "modern" or "contemporary" at all, but imitations of long-ago discredited ugly-ass, stripped-down boxes.

Neighbors' objections has nothing to do with "conservatism" or "historicism," but with beauty of structure. And "contemporary" design has nothing to do with what is best for the moment and for today's uses, but everything to do with trying to fit in with what's fashionable, besting one another at the race to the bottom, and nostalgia for mid-20th century historicism.

I have yet to see a "contemporary" structure in Portland that doesn't scream out, "cheap, cheap, cheap!", that looks to make any attempt at harmony with the natural environment or the other quality buildings in the area, and that doesn't look as if it will fall apart in twenty years.

Time to get with the real times, all ye hipsters!

Brian Libby

John,

You are really quite a piece of work.

It's true that a lot of what we call contemporary is really a continuation of the 'modern' architectual style of the 20th century.

But all the criticism you heap after that is just your own opinion. People have every right to build a house in the simple, stripped down style of contemporary architecture. It's true that a lot of lesser designs, be they from today or 50 years ago, fail to hide cheap materials. But when you say there is no beautiful architecture of this sort made in recent years, you are so totally off your rocker, I want to drive you to the asylum myself. You might as well just say, "These darn whipper snapper kids today with their hula hoops!" Not everything can be made of gingerbread, pal.

Alissa

I am the "other" neighbor of the North House and have been really excited about the new building since it was but a wee hole in the ground. I am only sorry I (or someone with some taste) didn't invest in the flag lot at Mason when we had the option... so we could have balanced the act on the other side with something gorgeous and modern. Instead, last year they put up a monstrosity, slapped up to the lot line against another historic horror (est 1996), which likely had NO problem getting by the city and committees -as they "fit" with the neighborhood. It's been sitting empty ever since. Horrrible and thoughtless eyesores. The neighborhood is half industrial/half historic - in my not so humble opinion, this is a perfect atmosphere to fold in the modern edge.

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