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Bob R.

Regardless of the merit and placement of the project locally, is there any way to accomplish this without it coming off in the public mindset as a "me too" version of the Space Needle?

Mike M

I'm surprised about the comparison to Seattle. San Francisco has it's Coit Tower, almost every major European city has it's TV tower, observation towers are popular in many big cities. I would argue two points though:
1. Is Portland really big enough for this kind of tower?
2. Wouldn't it be better situated on a high point of land instead the lowest point in the city?


Yeah, I really don't think Portland is a large enough city with a varied enough skyline to have an observation tower. I just imagine people looking down at the unattractive roof of the World Trade Center and thinking "I want my money back" Though there is always Mt. Hood.

In a way I would say the tram is our observation tower.

Dennis H. Coalwell

Why did the city reject this proposal?


After reviews, consultations, neighborhood group input, environmental studies, context analysis, meetings upon meetings and discussions upon discussions etc etc etc I predict an eventual height of 200 feet. So don't get too excited.


What's wrong with the view of the city from one of the many bridges? Let's improved pedestrian access to the bridges from the waterfront instead. Or construct a public viewing platform on top of a bridge?


or you can go up on the West Hills and look at the city, this desire to build high smacks of Seattle or Chicago or some such. Shame!


There are many arguments against a landmark tower in Portland, the simplest being that there are many natural settings above the city from which to view it such as the Rose Garden. Additionally, the aerial tram is certainly a wonderful skyline addition which provides a mobile view up and down the Willamette. Portland shuns this kind of purposeless tourist attraction and will hopefully continue to do so.

On another note, not sure why you have such a strong affection for Skylab as a design firm for such a high-profile structure. While their body of work is certainly admirable, there is no multi-story work in it and the design of the Burnside project in both forms (high and low) is less than groundbreaking.


as much as I love observation towers, I do think they should come about in an honest manor. To build one just to have one is wrong. The Coit Tower was built with a purpose to honor firefighters and within it is a painting that honors the working class. The Space Needle happened because of the World's Fair. If we did build something like this, it would have to be something that represented the people of Portland in multiple ways.

With that said, I would be against a tower like this for most reasons because something like this goes against what Portland is about. I feel as the city continues to grow, we will one day have an observation deck that is on par with Chicago. In that city, it is the tallest two buildings that have an observation deck, not an iconic tower, but rather two towers that symbolize the white collar working class of the city.

I would love to see Portland get a new tallest building and have it be one of the best environmentally friendly building in the world and from the top of that building have an observation deck that looked out over the city and the hillsides. That would be more Portland than a showy tower on the waterfront.

John Russell

So our numerous buttes don't count? What about Pittock Mansion and Council Crest? Why don't we build an observation deck on the next radio tower we put on the West Hills or on one that's already thre? Now that would be a great view.


I like the fact that the Space Needle and Coit Tower stand apart from the center of downtown. They both would be lost among the highrises if they were built in the CBD. If some type of tower were to be built in Portland, I would place it at the north end of the Pearl District or on the eastside so the tower becomes part of the Portland skyline but also stands apart from downtown.


I have actually dreamed of working in urban planning and with several architecture grads and students about this very thing. I would love a lovely, LEED-certified tower that would somehow have a rose built in to it. Anything that brings more business to Portland, whether it's a new gorgeous office building, or a beautiful tourist attarction that puts our skyline on par with other major U.S. cities, would be greatly appreciated.


Why does everybody in Portland think so small? Why do we constantly view any sort of perceived "big city idea", be it world-class architecture or professional sports teams, as an idea that needs to be crushed in the name of keeping Portland "unique", instead of embracing it as an opportunity to showcase just how unique we can be?

Its not an object or a movement or even an "anti-movement" that makes us unique; its how we approach and solve problems with typical Portland style. We should be proud to showcase our creativity and show that not only can we do anything that bigger cities can do, we can do it better AND greener.


I don't think many people are opposed to an observation tower just to "Keep Portland Weird". There are just so many existing opportunities already available. As mentioned above: almost any bridge, tall builidng, butte, the Aerial Tram, Pittock Mansion, the Rose Garden, Council Crest, etc...

And the idea of using resources to construct a tower whose only purpose is already amply provided for is just not understanding the intent behind LEED.


Before investing a lot of money in a tower attraction at the waterfront, it might make some sense to think about giving the ugly red tv antennae atop Council Crest a little panache. Some kind of tower with restaurant that could also hold the tv gear? Maybe not...see below. Also, what might be the possibility of extending the tram's travel on up to Council Crest?

Years, and years ago, when Council Crest was the site of as big an amusement park as could be crammed on that little hillock, one of its features was an observation tower made of wood. It tended to get hit severely by lightening (if I remember correctly), first resulting in it being reduced in height, and then removed entirely.

R A Fontes

How about a reverse tower - one that would go down from ground level a few thousand feet to the intersection of the Juan de Fuca and North American plates? The view would be unique and a visit would hold the possibility of being particularly exciting during our next 9 point. The ground temperatures down there would be warm enough to be converted into sufficient electricity for lighting, elevator power, HVAC, and a little extra to help pay expenses. No city has anything like it and there would be no chance that we'd end up with an embarrassing eyesore.


yes. lets do that. the hole in the ground.
my eyes got a little beady at the possibility.


/\ There you go! Now you're thinking! I'm pretty sure the Nimbys wouldn't like it, though. :)

And as for the intent of LEED, yes, I do understand. But why isn't Portland taking better advantage of what other, bigger cities are doing with LEED and using it as a marketing tool? A "look what we did, now don't you want to come visit and spend money here" sort of thing that builds on itself and creates an opportunity to make money for the city/state/region? Pretty sells, sexy sells, and more than ever, Green sells. We can use this to help our local economy, and I fear that people don't look for the opportunities. Instead, they just cover their ears and cry "Oh no, Portland is going to become a big city, ahhhhHH!" We can do more; we can be better. And if using resources to create innovative solutions that help filter the air or the water or create energy, isn't that the whole point of using technology to create a better place? And if you can make some money to help the city and the schools and the region, then all the better. You have to spend money to make money, and you don't have to rape the environment to do it.


I've always thought that an iconic tower like this is what Portland is lacking. This is something we would enjoy viewing in the skyline, not just looking out from the top of. Just think of the tourist potential and business that would be generated from a beautiful observation tower....a very well thought-out design from PORTLAND architects. We could all be proud of this, as we show our visiting friends from other areas. I'm all for it!!!

Douglas K.

If we seriously wanted a tower in the core, I'd look at adding a couple of largely decorative towers to the Marquam Bridge -- assuming they could genuinely improve the appearance of the bridge and weren't just lipstick on a pig. If they were able to provide better seismic standards, that would be a plus.

Have a pedestrian deck running below the bridge for access, some glass elevators on the outside of one of them, and put an observation tower up top. Maybe even a long, narrow skyline restaurant between them.

Build solar panels and wind turbines into the towers. Use the power to light all the rest of the bridges.

That might actually be an interesting challenge for architecture and engineering students -- get some concepts about Marquam Bridge Towers. Figure out the most visually pleasing height and massing.

Brian Libby

I've warmed to the idea of a tower in the 24 hours since I wrote this post. But if we do it, I really want us to do it right. Put the tower in a great location, not just one owned by the developer. Hold a design competition for the plan, and don't just hand the job over to any firm. Make it great without being overpowering or garish. Fund it privately so as not to take away from public funds needed elsewhere. If those criteria could be met, I'd love to see this happen. And I disagree that Portland's various hills and bluffs offer enough viewpoints to render this unnecessary. If we don't have a tower, I'd rather see them put an observation deck on the Wells Fargo or US Bancorp (Big Pink) building than count on something one has to wind through the maze-like West Hills to get to.


with the right budget and the right client there is plenty of talent in portland to do "great" work. maybe the people always looking for outside help should go elsewhere? outside talent can let others convince the city of great design, but if the money is there to solicit outside talent, then the money is there to demand it of the local community. i guess i get a little tired of constantly hearing the rant of the solution is to "go find talent elsewhere", or that an international competition is like the coming of Christ for architecture in portland.

Lance Lindahl

Depite being discussed in the Oregonian, this report on plans for such a tower just don't seem credible to me. Heck, given all of the embarassing mis-steps and factual errors in the Oregonian as of late, maybe this is pure fantasy?

Ponder the following:
1) How does a 600 foot tower even get built in this town when there are such strict height limits built into the zoning codes? This means that such a tower would likely have to be built in an industrial zone where there are no height limits.

2) How would such a tower even fit into Waterfront Park? Open space near the Yeon Building is relatively limited, and will be even more so once the ramps to the bridge are re-aligned to make room for the new county courthouse.

3) How would such a tower be financed? Developer Derek Hanna seems to be well connected, but is still new to the development game. His first project hasn't even started construction as of yet.

This city does deserve a great observation tower. It's just a matter of finding the right place, the riht financing plan, and the right developer.

Just Joe

It really surprises me that there was absolutely no talk during Lewis and Clark Bicentennial about a West Coast version or answer to the St. Louis arch. It's a beautiful minimalist sculpture with an observation area. We shouldn't think space needle for this project. Seattle is a very touristy place, and lots of tourists take in the space needle. We shouldn't think tower but a sculpture that complements Portland's emerging skyline and would complement the iconic view of mounted from the Rose Garden.


HI! I have the perfect idea! Okay: It looks like the couplet is going in for sure on the east-side. When I first saw the drawings proposing what the turn-around at Sandy/Burnside/12th would possibly look like, the planners had envisioned a really pedestrian building at the center. BORING. I thought, why not a nice big park - WITH A NICE BIG TOWER AND OBSERVATION DECK! It's at the top of a nice rise already, and would really pull the action of downtown to that end of Burnside and Couch. To all those opposed to how it would transform the neighborhood, well, they need to get used to the idea of transformation, as Portland is only going to continue to explode. And in response to the person who noted that Coit Tower honors people, this new tower, in addition to being sustainable, could draw inspiration off of the towers that the indigenous peoples of the northwest built so many years ago that dotted the landscape around Portland (Okay, I totally made that up, but maybe it's true? Anyway, something like that could be cool - let's do some research).

I don't live in Portland anymore, but when I did, it bugged me that the city - and it's people - are pretty content to be wallflowers. This isn't necessarily a bad thing I suppose.

But every now and then you have to go crazy and build a freakin' awesome tower. And that wacky intersection at East 12th would be the PERFECT place.



I think the tower in London works because it manages to create a good relationship with the existing context. However, I don't like the idea of a 600 foot tower on Portland's eastside because of the absolute dominance the structure would have over the rest of the areas buildings. If the tower were built, then the next tallest building in southeast would be the Weatherly Building at only 175ft. I also don't like the idea of having the tallest building in the city function as a tourist attraction. Portland has made such a huge commitment in the past to building a strong economic downtown core and therefore the tallest structure should remain as business institutions - not a mere attraction for people who dont even live here. The Space Needle in Seattle is an excellent design, but it isn't even close to being the tallest structure in the city. Ultimately the idea could work for Portland but it would require a better location and a scaled down size.


How about they build a 650ft wind turbine at the top of Forrest Park and put a observation deck somewhere in the middle? That way Portland gets an icon, an observation deck, and 5MW of power.


It seems to me that on the east side of the river, at the Burnside Bridgehead site would be perfect. Not only would it likely stimulate other development in the area, it would allow a totally different angle of the city you can get from anywhere but Mt Hood, and that's too far away to be useful.

It would be easily accessible by car, transit or foot, could stimulate more development in the central east side, and if designed right might make Big Pink less dominant when approaching the river on East Burnside.

Just add first (and maybe second) floor retail, a large parking garage above (say, 8 floors) then start the tower. The parking and retail can be made to look like a nice base for it, if done right.


I think it would be a great addition to the skyline. The drawing I saw in the Oregonian reminded me of a beacon or torch. It could represent Portland's desire to illuminate the path of sustainability.
Of course the details need to be worked out but overall, I like the concept.


Once again the hippies in Portland ruin something that could be awesome. Build the tower!!!

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