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I don't think this building deserves as much affection as it receives in this blog. It's okay. I'm sure the glass would need to be replaced to bring the building up to energy code. You can remember the old building through photos, we don't need to bend over backwards to save an unremarkable building.

It would be irresponsible not to add additional floors to this downtown location. This is one area of the city there would be little argument about increasing density.

Brian Libby

I have no problem with adding floors to this building or even changing it substantially. I just hope the original facade can be incorporated.


So would it be better for Holst to replicate the existing facade in terms of color, mullion spacing, height, etc., or to replace the facade with an entirely new design?

I would argue if they are essentially rebuilding the existing design, they should just redesign the facade. I don't see the point in replicating an old facade with more efficient materials/construction techniques. I would guess the existing system is probably quite inefficient with regards to energy consumption, so it would make sense that preserve the existing facade they would have to recreate it. Perhaps a new design that references the existing facade without recreating it exactly would be a good compromise.

Brian Libby

'sodapop', you make some fair points about the integrity of the design/construction process as it relates to the building. My side of it is more emotional than logical. You probably know technical stuff like the aforementioned mullions better than me. I just want that pretty old building's look to be saved.


They will definitely change or get rid of that hilarious facade because it lacks mainstream commercial appeal. Too bad - there's almost nothing from that era intact downtown. Remembering it only through photos will be a shame.


You're being too sentimental in my opinion. Were it a great design I would agree with you. It's a shame this era of architecture isn't appreciated more, but I don't think this is a great building. Holst will do something great and in 50 years their building might be worth fighting for.

Mike M

The facade is kooky, but I'm not sure it merits historic protection.

If the building was really great, and really popular, it wouldn't have been empty for so many years.


I agree, remember it through your photos Brian. Portland does need more color in its Architecture, but this color scheme is just a novelty that is funny the first time you see it, then it loses it's impact.
I think good Mid-centry buildings should be saved, but this is a bad example.

Mack M

I think the facade of this building is wonderfully silly and adds some much needed colour to the downtown area. I would be happy to see it renovated in a manner that would updated to code, of course, and keep the whimsy and off beat nature of this buildings look. Most of what has gone up lately is brown brick and glass. This spot of town could really use some... something other than brown and glass.


just to be clear here... we are discussing the merits of saving a fairly common 2x4 aluminum storefront framing system with a colored in-fill pattern?
And isn't there a very similar facade on SW 5th ave, just to the SW of the permit center? I believe that one has red and orange in-fill panels.
My opinion would be to create a beautiful new building rather than saving the whimsical facade, and although the two are not mutually exclusive, I wouldn't let saving the old facade be the only option.
The signage on the adjacent brick building in your first photo is also rather amusing. Perhaps even a "sign".


I think it is interesting that it is generally acceptable to be 'sentimental' for a mid-century building. Like Brian, there is a certain place in my heart for this building even though as an example of a style it is not especially great. Nor, is it particularly attractive or well built. Despite its shortcomings, I wouldn't want to see this building go.
Realizing this makes me think of groups like the Landmarks Commission. Having been on the receiving end of some harsh treatment from them I had a hard time seeing their point of view. To me they were preserving a history that may or may not be real and if it is, may or may not be worth saving. Now, in light of my position in this discussion, I have to laugh at myself a bit. It just goes to show that we really do argue architectural value from a perspective rooted in our personal feelings and not from a position of objective good or bad as we would like to think.
To be frank, and speaking to myself, objectively there are very few unsentimental reasons to keep this facade. However, that doesn't stop me from hoping somehow it will be preserved. If it is not, then I am confident that this project team can provide a quality replacement that will fill its shoes.

Dennis H. Coalwell

I was going to mention the Key Bank building on 5th Avenue as another example of this look/style but "truth" beat me too it. I take no position on saving this Stark Street area building. As a child this look was very popular but now that I have aged (but not necessarily wiser) I find I am not in love with the patterns, materials, and colors. Been there...done that.


To be clear, I actually like the facade quite a bit, and have since I moved to Portland. I just don't see it as something that requires preserving. It is an interesting pattern, but not an interesting building or space. I'd prefer an new interesting building that will last.

Double J

Love the facade... nothing else is worth saving. One possibility, how about something that grows out of the top like Foster's Hearst Tower project? Sure it's a chimerical solution but it acknowledges that things have moved on while preserving something quirky.


I agree with Brian. Writing off the facade to whimsy, dated style, or outdated window systems does not make it less interesting. Part of the appeal is its context and moreso, its scale relative to its surroundings.

This is a good example of taking "a fairly common 2x4 aluminum storefront framing system" and adding interest to it in an inexpensive way. Part of the joy of this building is the enhancement of something commonplace. Fans of this building aren't looking to give it landmark status but to maintain its uniqueness within a fairly drab area of the city. Maybe replacement is the solution.

Holst most certainly could make an interesting project of this building. Of course their rhetoric in 50 years may be looked upon as dated, too. We have certainly seen a lot of projected volumes with radiused corners, staggered window patterns, and the ubiquitous horizontal wood siding.

As for Foster's Hearst project, the review in a recent issue of AR really hits the nail on the head. I would hope Holst would embrace the building below it rather than put a 'happy cap' on it or leap skyward with total disregard.


Turn the plastic panels into different color glass and you'd have a winner. I'm just glad this eye sore is getting refurbished.

Double J

Agreed OK-dee... there is a way to do chimerical buildings more sucessfully than Foster did with Hearst.. the Reichstag is too loaded and grand to use as an example too. It has a very humane way of adressing the street and the pattern and volume of the facade is a big part of it.


I kind of like the arbitrary patterning they did with the building's facade, but other than that, this build is not a winner.

Even if all that was done was to replace the panels with a more permanent material - such as kiln-fired glass - would make it so much better. This building just lacks any material presence.. its very 2-dimensional. Maybe that gives it this "quirkiness?"

Brian Libby

I would be fine with them replacing the panels with a new material. Of course the physical structure and facade are not in good shape, and it isn't the materials that make the original special. I think a great compromise would be to maintain that same basic facade with new materials, like glass 'shadow boxes' as I believe they're called. You could then add a couple floors on top that are glassier. Certainly in this case we're talking about preservation in much looser terms. I think there's plenty of room for creativity and modernity while preserving the basic look of the existing facade, just on its original floors. Holst are one of the select few best firms in town, and I'm cautiously optimistic something good will come out of this.


With the Brewery Blocks nearby, this would be a good site for a new Apple store...I'm interested to find out more info about what happens. Keeps us up to date!

Richard R

I'm sure Holst will be successful with this building since they're really good at recreating 1950s retro design.


Is the name 'Holmes' on the background building a kind of foreshadowing or is that some handy Photoshop work on your part Brian?

Brian Libby

No photoshopping on my part, at least not with the Holmes mural. What are the odds of that?


I'd be game to carry the aesthetic concept of this building's combination of colored squares and transparent rectangles into it's next incarnation. It would be a stab of brightness in a spreading fabric of blandness.

And absolutely, make this building as tall as possible. Why? It's far superior as a location for that compared to uptown, on the Park Blocks; no views blocked, no shadows cast or other important natural elements blocked from particularly important pedestrian areas.

The color tones are important. Though faded, at the actual location, they're probably close to being a good selection. Others might be good as well, as long as they don't go too 'safe' and end up being simply drab and ugly to match so many new buildings built today. Due to differences in everyone's monitor setting, and other variables, what's being seen on screen may not be an accurate representation.

Isaac Laquedem

The quirky checkerboard colors aren't original, but were added in the early 90s. When Paul Gold (a prominent downtown landowner from 1951 to his death in 1981) built (rebuilt) the building in about 1962, he put in uniform orange panels. There was a building near PSU that used the same wall system and orange panels below the windows.

Isaac Laquedem

The "Holmes Business School" mural that's showing through is on the back of the New Fliedner Building (1017 SW Washington), so called because in about 1908 it replaced the original Fliedner Building on the same site. It and the Dinihanian Building (the gray wall to the right of the 11th Avenue view of the checkerboard building) are two other bits of Portland history that merit some attempt at preservation.


i love this building. there's a wabi-sabi quality to it...in a imperfect unconventional way that makes me smile when i see it. i'm a big midcentury fan and my love of the building makes me want to save it. but i think it's best to understand the new program for the building and if it fits to it's new life. if it doesn't it should go. i guess deep down i rather see the building unoccupied and sit there.


Interesting developer gossip: A few months ago this building was slated to become a parking garage for the Ace Hotel. I am happy to hear that Dick Singer has grabbed it and hired Holst to do a revamp.


I would not be opposed to playing up the fact that this building cuts through the whole city block, and with only 50 feet of frontage on both sides it really cuts through. Libby, with so many ideas why don't you design something already.

Facade Design

Seems like if you just changed it to black and white it would be perfect. But that's just me.

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