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50 years from now one of the few Portland buildings that will still be considered significant is "Portland's Eiffel Tower," the Portland Building.

At least it's interesting.


I agree with Dave. I drove across the Hawthorne Bridge the other day, where you get a great view of the Portland Building just after you cross the river, and thought, Wow, that's a memorable building. I could never figure out why so many Portlanders seem to resent that building so much -- except that it seems to be a particular quirk of the Portland character that people seem to resent whenever something is successful. And that is a successful building. I really have no idea what you mean, Brian, when you say that it "has not at all stood the test of time well." I mean, has it even had time yet to stand the test of time? It's barely two decades old.


The fact that you are even wondering if anything built in the last 50 years will stand the test of another 100 years, is telling. I find this exercise futile.All one can do is create for their time and let history judge. There is no way to predict the future in Art or Science and Technology (or taste or pretty much anything.)
Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, it was deemed a monstrosity in its time (in pretty pretty Paris) but with the benefit of hindsight it is tres romantique, n'est pas?
The problem in my opinion is this: Portland should be anxious and bursting at the seams to create new architecture, a confident city of the future, young and full of ideas. Instead it is an insecure and inward looking, preservation and regulation obcessed architectural canvas. Very succesful in affording a very walkable, human scale core, cozy and even pleasant. But a place of high aspiration, pizzaz, high concept, experimentation, daring, it is not. That is, by the way, incongruent with the fact of Portland as a happening place in food, independent music and design in general. Maybe architecture will follow the general trendiness in the next 20-30 years, especially when more people and perhaps more money flows in.
By the way, the greatest urban design success of Portland is the emergence of the Pearl district, a Phoenix rising from blighted railroad yards and derelict warehouses.
As for the Big Pink, I propose we rename it the Pink, it needs about 30-40 more stories to become Big.


As for the portland building.. i don't think it should not last another day! If the graves building is memorable, it is all for for the wrong reasons.. It is symbolic of faux architecture, egocentric, does not care about the users (lack of daylighting), no relationship to it's context..materials (tile) that should only be used in bathrooms..

Unfrortunately, skilss, tecnology and economics (cost of labor and materials, bottom line) changed how things are built. Most of the cheaply made housing projects in the pearl will not make it to 50yrs.


Its all about the ability to be re-used. The pearl was built in a classic urban way. Most of those buildings can be re-used for other purposes as the trends of time demand. The Graves building can't because it's all form no function. Unless a building is an absolute classic, function will out live form. The Seattle Library went all out to be a classic, but the function of that building is so bizarre that if the building doesn't land the iconic reputation is simply won't be reused and will be replaced. The risk of really going for an iconic work of architecture is much higher 50 years down the road when a building looks for a second life.


Libby, I disagree. I think a lot of our built environment will remain 100 or even 200 years from now - just see how attached Portlanders are to 'historic' homes already.

Trying to tie the lack of buildings predating 1857 in Portland to the conclusion that the 'time limit' is 150 years is also absurd, as the population of the Portland Metro region during that time has increased from about 1,000 people to 2.25 MILLION.

Of course there weren't that many buildings back then - hardly anyone lived here! However, you can find farmhouses in the valley that are that old.

You've been to Amsterdam, right? Many of those houses date back to the 16th century - and have a wood frame. The house I live in right now on Stark street is 97 years old. It has been upgraded (although rather poorly), but a lo of the neighboring houses are between 70 and 100 years old.

Larger buildings can also be upgraded - throw a new facade on it, reinforce the columns, add a seismic refit and throw on a couple extra floors - its all possible. In the future, however, we are probably even more likely to preserve existing buildings - but for a couple of reasons:

-less disruption of the built environment. Half of downtown is already a giant construction pit.

-it is a 'greener' option to not tear down. Reusing is the best environmentally sustainable act - and if most buildings are constructed on a fairly standardized floor plan, ceiling height, and column spacing, they should offer flexibility for renovation in the future (as opposed to a hospital, which has very stringent and specialized requirements these days).

-people don't like the architecture on their street to change. See definition of "NIMBY." Expect most Victorian homes in Portland to stay put!

I think developers are also going to find more value in historic architecture and seek to reuse them in projects - as they offer unique opportunities to offer unique products (historic renovated building space) that you can't build new.


I don't know how relevant the following thoughts are, but they came to mind...

One form in which architecture survives the test of time is through revivals - the cyclical re-discovery of certain valued qualities often overlooked for a while.

From Rejuvenation, where I sit, both revivals and "standing the test of time" have special meaning.

Revivals seem to (arguably) come about through a unique intersection of cultural values and romance. To this end, it is intriguing to ask what "romance" might be perceived in today's buildings by someone a century and a half from now?

One current observation about revivals. Most of the revivals we've seen in the last 30-40 years - Victorian in the 1970s and 1980s, Arts & Crafts in the 1990s and 2000s - have been at least a generation removed. I.e., the interest is in a style/era that is older than living memory.

Interestingly, the current revival of interest in midcentury modern breaks this pattern - many enthusiasts can actually remember a childhood in these homes when they were new! And some of the architects working at the time are still living today.

If the distance between original styles and their revivals keeps collapsing, "'70s condo" is just around the corner - and Michael Graves could be marketing revivals of his teapots before they even go out of production from the first time around.

My vote for the Portland building most likely to inspire awe and romance in 150 years is the Forestry Building at the Lewis & Clark Expo (it will be reconstructed for the 2105 fair bicentennial)....

Sean Casey

I think Dave and Carlo are correct regarding the Portland Building. Personally, I find the interior a bit stuffy and claustraphobic, however the exterior is playful, when compared to the other interchangable curtain-wall buildings downtown. And why shouldn't the building be a tad egocentric? Isn't that what people want from a name-brand architect? Even "Portlandia" somehow escaped the design-by-committee fate thats reduced so much public art to being abstract and "interpretive". I'll take that, rather than another piece of "plop art".

And I think Dave is right about the reuse part of the equation. Neighborhoods and urban areas go through cycles. The Pearl district may one day become a ghetto. If that happens, do anyone think those buildings will hold up to the ravages of a severe recession or depression? Somehow I find it hard to believe those buildings could handle the abuse. Unlike the townhouses in New York, where over many generations the rich/middle-class/poor than rich again occupied these dwellings, still standing a hundred years later. I dont think those tin studs and sheetrock are really built to last. They're built to sell. Once sold, the builders and developers could care less even twenty years down the road.

I lived near Union Station from 1999 to 2002. Not long after the Lovejoy ramp was demolished I remember standing roughly around NW 13th one clear night and maveling at the flatness of the area. There seemed to be nothing standing between Glisan and the 405 bridge. The calm before the storm.

What will probably remain the longest are the parks, protected by whatever development is around it. What NY buildings go back further than Central Park?

Thanks for allowing me to comment.


Also thumbs up for the Portland Building for the extraordinarily upbeat contribution it makes to Portland's conservatively fitted cityscape. Will there be a demand for its continued presence throughout the next 150 years? I'm not sure. It's easier for me to think about whether NYC's Chrysler Building and the Empire State will be here that long. I'd be inclined to think yes.

I think materials have a lot to do with the fact that some buildings have been around for so long. It's amazing what can be done with old buildings made of or surfaced with stone to update and make them new again. It's as though they were made to live forever. Will glass and steel structures be able to pull this trick off 100 years from now?

Height is a factor too though. As buildings get taller, it seems to me that the likelihood they'll stand a greater test of time increases. This is what occurred to me about the NYC World Trade towers. If the terrorists hadn't plowed into them, what kind of demo/rebuild rationale would have been required to bring down those immense masses of materials? Aside from an earthquake, they might have stood forever.


The Hatfield Courthouse will be standing in 100 years.

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