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ernie munch is the architect already. he did the other additions and the puma building across the street.


I hope they save that fabulous sign.


I hope the remodeling includes a vertical corner neon sign you can see from ten blocks away.


call me nostalgic but... after the loss of the brewery (and a lot of badly done gentrification) this part of portland has lost what made it special. the further loss of the powell's entrance will wipe away some of the last bits of the districts gritty soul and history.


Don't be so cynical. The additional space could be great and the fact that the architecture will be understated might be a welcome change. I think the neon sign idea is a weak one. There is something about the brashness of that large Powell's sign that is iconic. For once, maybe the high architecture can stand down.


The whole allure of Powell's is it's sense of authenticity. Whatever happens should be authentically crappy to match the existing culture of the organization which is modest and like walking into a collage.


A sleek, Zaha Hadid addition to the corner would be worthy of Powell's allure and worth. But "high architecture" has been "standing down" already (see Columbia River Crossing Bridge news.) Congratulations! The historic Pierson Field, "a significant part of aviation history" is being preserved!
I love Powell's for its content, but when I first visited as a tourist years ago, and I saw the elevation of the bookstore from the SE conrner, my heart sank! THIS is "the City of Books"?I thought. It looked more like the shanty town of books


Does this mean the second floor parking will be leaving? That would be a good thing. People and shelves of books on floors above street level visible from Burnside would represent a big improvement.

I don't have a great objection to the later renovation on the NW corner Brian Libby refers to, except for the brick facing they used. Not sure what it's missing, but it just seems cold and sterile. Maybe they could have used more of a stressed finish brick for a little more of a lived-in look; something more torn up. For comparison, it's nice to note how the brewery building still looks great despite the fact that it's been yupped up.

It's amusing to hear people wax sentimental over Powell's big cheap and ugly discount store sign. It's o.k. though. The important thing is to sustain the association that leads people to feel comfortable and in the mood to wander Powell's extraordinary maze of knowledge and wonder. If the sign supports this, keep it.


i think whatever the solution is for the expansion, the architect should incorporate the existing street presence - the grit, the banal, and the simplicity. i am trying to not be nostalgic, but i think there is a lot of poetry about the contrast of the exterior of Powells and the warehouse interior. I hope when Nikos' heart dropped that it picked back up when inside, and that could elevate the experience. I would think of the store as a metaphor to a book. It is certainly not about the cover, but about the content. As for the architect - can't say i am hopeful given the portfolio of work nearby. i hope they will rise to the occasion to take care of an intellectual landmark, and fall prey to the gentrification or stylistic solution.


ummm....not fall prey to the gentrification or stylistic solution.


I would like to see a huge claus oldenburg book at the entrance.

Mike Riscica

I hope they build a stage for the Elvis Impersonator.


My heart did pick up, Kyle, and I would never stop visit them, even if they stacked their books in the street. PDXrs have a romanticized idea of "the gritty urban jungle", as if prostitutes, homeless people and shady characters are the true mark of a "real" city. You have elevated the plight of the American (and other modern European) cities into a romantic standard. If architecture expresses anything, then whoever undertakes the architectural design of Powell's, one of the most extraordinary (in my opinion) bookstores IN THE WORLD, should really really try to come up with something. Now I realize, it is not easy creating art (that's why I am not an artist) but the challenge here is to design, in this limited space, that SE corner, with limited money perhaps, something that we can all see and think, YES! this is worthy of our aspirations as a city of design, a city of people who passionately care about architecture and art and books and all the good things in life!

In Addition, as someone who has a fetish with books (I caress them, sniff them, keep them as objets sometimes without redaing them 100%, too many books, not enough time) I disagree it is not about the cover at all. Some of it IS about the cover. You may be a great person Kyle, but I would much rather you wear clean well fitted clothes (and just a smidgen of perfume)I will like you much better that way.


speaking of elvis...


(brian, feel free to delete this)


Prostitutes, homeless people and shady characters make up a city. So do stuck up rich and wannabe rich people, and god knows they're thick as thieves in the spiffed up Pearl. With an abundance of money poured into older, existing indigenous architecture, often goes well designed architecture.

Will the architect of the Powell's expansion be able to enhance the function and charm of the existing Powell's city of books without surrendering to pressure from gentrification influences to design in such a way as to discourage the presence of our less savory fellow citizens? That's what I want to know. Does the exterior of Powell's Burnside really need any aesthetic changes? Why? It's working just fine. The upper levels, windows lit with shelves of books and people browsing them will in themselves provide the magical effect for people outside the building, that no fancy design scheme can ever outdo.


more than any other exterior feature of this beloved bookstore, the exisitng sign represents a certain authenticity which no new sign could hope to emulate. i don't know when the sign first went up, but it has become an aesthetic and distinctly "portland" icon for many of us. ~i have more than one photo of it on my screensaver slideshow.~
the sign fittingly represents what is on the inside. one of the greatest things about powell's is its abundance of dusty used books, which would be misrepresented by a fancy and sleek exterior. with the new project, the company will consider what kind of image they want to present, whether it be corporate or more in keeping with their humble beginnings. it is possible to move forward without pretending to be something you are not. and therefore i would agree with nikos when he says that sometimes it IS about the cover.


certainly the cover is important, but more times than not, this blog gets all wrapped up in the idea that every piece of architecture or client has to exude a manifestation of time and place - like it is required. that may be true at a philosophical level, but at times the beauty of a place or culture for that matter might be about restraint. any well trained architect will take all there is about a place, a culture, a client and create a poetic solution that preserves the past and improves the future. In the case of Powell's it is not about a face-lift or "image", or a squirt of cologne to improve it's perception, but instead it can be about the values alone. that might mean a clean wrapped cover, or a picture window to peek inside, or maybe a solid wall to create an element of surprise. whatever the solution, the current store has never been about the street, or to improve it for that matter, it is about improving by experience,reading, trading, upgrading, learning, and going to your own place to make improvements. i hope for many reasons that Powell's maintains it generic paper bag look to itself, rather than turn into another boutique storefront. should it address the urban place - of course! i guess my take was that we shouldn't hold our breath for the next apple store glass box to be the new moniker for Powell's books - nor should we expect it.


I propose (stay wiht me for a sec, it's a fantasy) SANAA Architects (kazuyo sejima and ryue nishizawa) designers of the Dior luminous box of a boutique in Tokyo and the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York. Their esthetic should go perfectly with the current SE corner minimalist box design and the bright sign which I am sure they would brilliantly incorporate in their design. Check how their Dior boutique plays against the concrete density and streetscape of Tokyo!

Skinny City Girl

If I were the owner of Powell's I would feel a little bit insulted being told I had a "responsibility to make my buildings better." Let's remember who was there first and who pays a significant sum in yearly streetcar assessments, taxes etc. Everyone in the Pearl should thank their lucky stars Powell's didn't fold up and go online-only or move to Washington County. How many guide books and real estate brochures would have to be re-written if that happened?
Why don't we just trust their judgment?


Powells, we love the covered bike parking which makes a statement by the entry door. An interesting question will be setbacks and how the corner is used, taking into account the Burnside streetscape if the couplet is developed.

A larger event reader board is needed, as is a larger space for readings, which could double as a public meeting room for the neighborhood, drawing even more readers into the store. With a hardwood floor it becomes a yoga studio or the like.

Powells maintains specialty stores, technology- science, gardening- cookbooks. The remodel may offer an opportunity for a prominent sustainability section.

I have always wondered what the future was for the historic building, Powells SW corner, which has the cafe and parking.

A remodel also is a chance to rethink grades and levels in the building complex.

From a branding perspective, Powells could up it's excitement and drama, as has other retail. For me, gritty is not so exciting.


The sidewalks on Burnside must be widened - tell me that's part of this plan!

Brian Libby

Maybe that's an example of a design need that could produce something cool-looking. Why not find a way to set back more of the building along Burnside like they do at the corner?

I wonder about some kind of cantilevering of the second floor over the first. Perhaps you could have some skylights through the ceiling spreading some light there into the setback portion that merges with the sidewalk. If you added some additional floors on top of that, the building's form might have a kind of lightness instead of seeming bulky as well. Of course I'm no architect, though.

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