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We already have a storytelling institution in this city; it's called a movie theater. And if you can afford it, there's another one called Portland Center Stage.


We need a decent Concert Hall and Art Museum before any money can be spent on the "Narratorium" (What a repulsive term, rhymes with Sanatorium, Vomitorium etc)
Mature cultures write things down (they develop alphabets, Literature etc) and they create art,movies and theater to "tell their stories" (agree with aneeda).
I find the whole idea pretentious and affected.


I suggest that Aneeda and Nikos need to (re)read Fahrenheit 451. Storytelling is the starting point for all those "mature" artforms you cling to so pretentiously. Texting and blogging would seem to be the latest evidence of our communal need to tell stories, simply and plainly. A good storyteller can transcend all of the literary developments of the past 3000 years. Turn off the computer, put down the book and shelve the dvds, and listen to what someone is saying. But you'll really have to listen...there probably won't be a pause button, and you may not be able to save your place with a book mark.


very strange at the often negative and even hostile comments to people when they express ideas and inspiration that are trying to get the rest of us to see ourselves and our city in new and creative ways. In other cities the efforts of these students would be celebrated and taken serious.
kinda sad


Maybe just a little cynical...i think the idea is interesting and I reserve judgment until I learn more about it, but I'm skeptical of trying to recreate old forms or institutions when they died out historically for very good reasons; either technologies made them irrelevant or our culture no longer needed them in their present forms. If this is the next generation beyond our current story-telling institutions than I think they are onto something amazing. If we are talking about a building for a group of people to sit in a circle and tell stories, I don't think it's very relevant to today's culture.


oooh, them's fightin' words from one of my former professors to another. i think the concept is interesting and a challenge for architecture students, but i usually just take a pocketful of cash to the public house. for the price of a few beers you can meet people who have plenty of interesting stories. you may even end up with a few good friends.


I think it's an interesting suggestion. Maybe a little goofy, but it was an important form of communication that we have lost. Would building a structure for storytelling warrant a new structure? Sure, why not, as long as there was no public financing and didn't depend on operating revenue through ticket sales. For a learning exercise, it's always good to have students think outside of the box.


"died out historically for very good reasons"

difficult to mass produce
doesn't package well
requires a proxy medium

I submit that it's not a dead form. we, as individuals, tell stories every day. the stories we tell to each other and to ourselves play a crucial role in establishing our individual and cultural identities.

moreover, its very unlike cinema and rather unlike drama in general.



This string of posts is a perfect illustration of the value of a "place" for storytelling. There are now two different individuals posting as "DC", we are invivisible, anonymous, and quite possibly not really present. Anyone can be DC, goose, Aneeda, or even Brian Libby! Once you physically stand or sit amidst an audience and begin to tell your story, even though you create characters not yourself, you are the person who is present.


Well said.


NPR features something called StoryCorp which is an actual booth where people can go and tell their stories, and as I understand it, it travels from city to city. So was the architectural design assignment modeled on this existing project? Was the idea to challenge the notion of a moveable story telling forum based on the assumption (by who, the teacher?) that a permanent place -- requiring hundreds of thousands if not millions of capital investment that could otherwise be used for a more pressing civic infrastructure need-- is a better alternative? I think the students should have pushed back more in this exercise to "think outside the box" -- just to reinvent a creative idea someone already had!


Congratulations to PSU Arch and to Clive Knights, especially. The Narratorium Forum and "Verge" show that this group dares to practice what they preach: take your place.

PSU Arch is no ivory tower. Good for them. Good for us.


I think its so odd that you continue to discount the Portland Art Museum's Modern and Contemporary Art Center. I don't understand what you think is missing from this museum - maybe you could fill us in?

Currently in exhibition space its in the top 25 museums - and displays some of the most important works in history and today.

However, I am not aware of a Design Museum, and Portland Art Museum isn't covering it; that's a brilliant idea.

But a natatorium? OK - I'll suggest a couple other ideas:

A burlesque house!

A floating barge (as they have in Europe and now New York) on our river in summer's with a beautiful swimming pool and sand...

Such a thing would demonstrate our connection to water, our history with steel & shipping, not to mention our ethic for recycling and re-using.

LINK: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/30/nyregion/30pool.html


Better yet,A burlesque house on a barge, where stories can also be told between acts, perhaps serve Voodoo doughnuts in the process (preferably the ones with the bacon, to uderscore another PDX innovation/tourist attraction) Now that would be non stop performance art few museums could contain!

Two things are missing from the Portland Art Museum:
1. an important collection (but that's OK,that's an affliction of all West Coast Museums)
2: An inspiring space.
(Ah, the stories we are going to hear now.....)

DC - the other one

What I think is important about this exercise is that the students have to create a different kind of space for a different kind of expression. I'm sure there are/will be elements that will be similar to spaces for drama etc..., however creating a space that inhances connectedness between the story teller and the audience will be challenging. I think people are getting too hung up on the idea that this is going to be built.


Clive clearly hopes to build momentum on this. I don't think this is wholly make-believe. And really, he's just a Phil Knight shy of purchasing land. Do you think there are any super-wealthy story tellers out there?

My guess is yes.


@a The answer is "NO" this is a FOLLY. It is 100% make believe. It is unbelievable that some of the folks that participate in this blog consider this as an example of "architectural studio as Engagement with the Real World as opposed to Ivory Tower". @ Nikos even says "people are getting too hung up on the idea that this is going to be built." Have any of you noticed the growing presence of the homeless in the so-called "Cultural District"? Students don't need to learn to "create a different kind of space for a different kind of expression." They need to learn to understand the REAL world in all its complexity and not some trumped up trope, and solve Real problems, not phony ones.


"architectural studio as Engagement with the Real World as opposed to Ivory Tower"

It's poor form and disingenuous to quote fragments that don't exist. Straw men are easy.

I'm not convinced Students need to solve ANY problems. They need to learn to ask good questions and to explore those questions with care. Now, ellen may have issue with the types of questions they are asking.

To "understand the real world" is to engage it...or them. Real stories are of he real world. The narratorium seem to be a rich way of engaging a many-faced community. After all, "Don't those of us without homes have important stories to tell?"

Do I recall correctly that PSU Arch built a house for habitat a few years back?




@gadds To set a phrase off in quotation marks in an email in not quoting a fragment that doesn't exist, it is making a point in response to the comment by "h-lin"

You are right that students need to learn to ask and explore questions with care. That's why I'd like to know if any of them challenged the assumptions of their professor that a permanent story telling place -- as opposed to rich diverse neighborhood environment with lots of places to stop and chat with neighbors, or a local variation on the theme of the existing StoryCorp project, or any NEW idea, not a re-boxed museum--would be a valid response parti.


That makes them sneer quotes: a form of mockery.

I assume you'll raise all of these questions at the forum. They're good ones. As a student, to accept or reject an instructor's premise is a critical first step, certainly. It's also a part of the decision making along the way.

I don't see where Clive stated that this project is to be a "reboxed museum".


Nikos - Love the idea of burlesque on a barge even better than mine! But as to an important collection lacking at Portland Art Museum, ever hear of the Clement Greenberg Collection?


Portland needs a serious Contemporary Art Museum...showing work by the best working artists both here and around the globe. The Portland Art Museum has a wonderful collection of 20th Century works and a few contemporary pieces by living artists. The PAM just doesn't have the resources or focus to devote its energies to emerging art.


I hope you have all checked out the website for this project, it has links to the students' own blogs and a full studio description: www.plottingthecity.org


Aneeda, So then I'm curious why not get PAM the resources to move forward in expanding what they've been able to do already (growing what we already have). But, have you been to the Modern and Contemporary Art Center lately? There have been some amazing work shown this year by everyone from Roxy Paine, to Pierre Hughye, to Kenhinde Wiley, and Damien Hirst.

Not to mention the recent works of emerging Pacific Northwest artists in the Northwest galleries.

And Brian, I am still curious about your perspective on this. ;)


You all pose great questions and comments on this idea of a narratorium, however, you all are not understanding that everyday, you yourself are involved with storytelling if you like it or not.

The act of making body movements, facial expressions, and talking, whether it be a story from your childhood, or a proposal you are trying to pass to a client (i.e: narratorium), you are trying to express your feelings to another person.

I go along with what gadds stated, "I'm not convinced Students need to solve ANY problems. They need to learn to ask good questions and to explore those questions with care." This is a strong aspect of the student body within the architectural community. At this stage in their development they should not be trying to "save the world.." but rather ask questions to develop a strategy in the long run to help save the world.

I hope to see you all at the forum today... should be very interesting since there is a lot of views on this project.

Brian Libby

KD, I agree that the Jubitz contemporary art center at the Portland Art Museum is a huge improvement for the museum. There have indeed been some very nice shows of artists like Kehinde Wiley, who I wrote about for The Oregonian during his show, and some nice additions to the permanent collection.

However, I think to complement what PAM is doing, Portland eventually needs a contemporary art center/museum that is kind of in-between what the Jubitz Center does and what now-defunct nonprofits like the Portland Art Center and Disjecta were doing. There are tons of talented young artists moving to town, and we need an organization that can embrace that movement while also bringing in more established artists and their works.

I think of it this way: PAM is our baby Metropolitan Museum, and eventually we need a baby MoMA.


It would be an interesting concept to having a floating barge, it would be reminiscent of the floating bawdy house from early Portland history. It floated, I believe, between Portland, and East Portland, and thus was never quite in either jurisdiction, and could carry on without worry of prosecution.

Some of the latter postings on this list seem to have veered from the concept of the possibility of having a unique (think Keep Portland Weird) place where a cross between 'sitting around the campfire' and StoryCorp, sharing stories of a personal and historical nature. One of the drawbacks of Cinema, and Theatre, and most Professional Music presentations. The audience comes, and receives the information from the Performer. The Audience is the receptacle, the vessel awaiting the presentation of wisdom/entertainment/enlightenment from the Avatar. With storytelling, the audience can be on the same level, can interact, and contribute to the story. It's not just a one way street, but can be an alternative means of communication. Perhaps Portland can be the place where this something different is done, or we can be like everywhere else, where it is not done.


That idea reminds me of Aldo Rossi's floating theater in Venice.

Susan Skinner

REALLY?? You have a fix on that word...try to expand yourself and your writing skills.

The trees have started to fill in and grow up on the park, and although it’s a slow process of course, I was really struck visiting Jamison last night at how there really is a marked transformation happening in this respect. Trees really make all the difference in any park.

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