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this city and the neon. its funny. build this sign, change this sign, tear down this sign. ah... hey its got to be something, might as well be neon.


Randy has/had the opportunity to do something elegant. Instead he chose the 'fast-food' option.

M Brown

The worst part of this was that the solution to this issue sat right in front of Council. All they have to do is break the sign apart from the building. Let there be two separate processes. Not one person argued that the building shouldn't be renovated, and to Randy's credit that is going to get done.
Yet Randy's argument back to those who questioned the sign (thank you Brian, Joseph, Peter, etc.) was something like "There's HVAC on the roof! That you can see! From literally miles away!"

Here is the solution - waive the code requirements so you can get Albertina Kerr in there. DON'T waive the code requirements for the sign. Give people a chance to weigh in on the sign through the process that we already have in place.

Don't let Randy tie the two together as if they depend on one another. He's trying to convince us that our cell phone will only work if we glue some bling to the outside.


I made my voice heard, by sending Randy an email with the same concerns as Brian Libby, ending with, "you must have chose neon because it rhymes with Yeon."

His response: "I find your characterization of the Rose to be, frankly, offensive. You have your view and many, many others have another. I think we can disagree without making derogatory references to the Rose or suggesting only architects have the sensibility to know what is or is not in good taste...thanks for writing....Randy"

I think I hit a nerve.


Please make the bad man stop with the signs. Save buildings, leave the signs to some one else. maybe putting a neon rose on the memorial coliseum would save it?


All hail the mighty Rose!


how are we to rush to judgment over a sign no one here has even seen? an argument based on omission is just as bad as one made in error.

Dan Haneckow

A neon rose by any other name would still be tasteless- but lets remember that most of the ideas for the site involve knocking the Oregon Visitors Center building down. I'll hold my nose for the rose in hopes of seeing the building in use and somewhat restored to Yeon's vision...someday. Or, at the very least, some new paint for Gods sake.



We have seen the sign. It is posted online with some real "compelling" graphics.

It looks like someone's kid came up with it.

The lack of respect that Randy has for the "creative class" is stupifying.


Thanks David-

Checked. Pretty tasteless. But I still do not think it is the end of the world. The fact of the matter is that the Rose Fest has to advertise like anyone else. I think unfortunately it has to do more with style than substance. For instance, if it was a gorgeous design, I think the reaction would be much more positive. But at the moment it sort of sounds like a case of legislating good taste. Whatever comes of it, I hope they disallow a rooftop mounted sign, however nice it might be.

Randy Leonard

In the interest of full disclosure, the email to which I responded to (in clonigro's comment above, 4th from the top) in it's entirety;

From: Chris LoNigro [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 2:44 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: The rose

Commissioner Leonard,
You stated, this morning, your respect for the innovativeness of the John Yeon's design. Memorial Coliseum is a much more important work of Architecture than Yeon's little structure.

You are turning your back on the very people that help make Portland what it is. It is the architects and designers that support Portland's planning goals - that push for more density, more transit, purpose and use of sustainability, and theories of creative liveability. It is us, not the commissioners, which meet with the neighborhoods in hope to make a compromise between the city's planning goals and the neighborhood's wishes. We hold the town hall-esque meetings and the multi day workshops with the residents to push this city forward. Then with little warning, you announce you are taking away our most cherished work of architecture that can not be duplicated. Why? If Memorial Coliseum is not making money...make it make money. 160 events last year were held at the coliseum. In ten years that number could well be over 300-400 events. That building can house multiple events at the same time. If it is not making money, that is management's issues, not the building's.

On top of this, I strongly oppose the neon rose sign on the beautiful John Yeon building. You had/have the opportunity to create something elegant. You chose the 'fast-food' version to cheapen the architecture, otherwise known as "Learning from Las Vegas" (Robert Venturi). We elected you to make smart sound decisions, not to influence the architecture in this town. People are already starting to say the only reason you chose neon is because it rhymes with Yeon and you must have thought that to be rather clever.

Christopher LoNigro

di loreto ARCHITECTURE, llc
200 Northeast Twentieth Avenue, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97232-3021
T 503 736 9979
F 503 736 9975

Brian Libby

Commissioner Leonard,

Thank you very much for your efforts to help save the Visitors Center building. Although we disagree on the neon rose sign, it is definitely noted that the building is being preserved.

Randy Leonard

Thank you, Brian.


Yeah, I'll second the approval of successful efforts to preserve the building. And it seems like the festival association could be the right kind of tenant. It generally promotes good things unique to Portland and the Northwest somewhat like the building was originally designed to do. Randy's seems generally to be a pretty good guy to have watching out for the city's interests.

I noticed the rendering of the building with the rose on top isn't posted here. The first time I saw that rendering (in a story in the Oregonian, I think, 2-3 wks ago), I almost could not believe my eyes. 'They're not really going to do that...are they?', is what I thought. I love rose blooms, but on top of the Yeon POVA, in neon, making that minimalist NW resources built building look like some cheap art deco cake cover? No way!

Look... . Can't someone be gently persuaded to put the big neon rose on a free-standing sign, or perhaps somewhere on the nearby Hawthorne Bridge? If need be, a modest neon rose sign on the side of the building somewhere. Just please don't let the rose be a protuberance upon the contemplative profile of this uniquely northwest building.


I agree with everyone here, we should be thanking Randy for his efforts saving the visitor center...as I did in another email. My diplomacy skills are still a work in progress. Their arrogant efforts to demolish Memorial coliseum is the real fight. The rose is just a distraction.


According to an email exchange I had with the Rose Festival, the Friends of John Yeon, led by Randy Gragg, are involved in the renovation of the Visitor's Center. Let's wish them all the best!


Does this mean it won't look like a Denny's anymore?


Has anyone investigated using the latest low-energy LED technology for The Rose? Not only is it "greener", but also allows for inventive animation capabilities. It could help bring the Rose Festival's image and marketing into the 21st century.

Brian Libby


It's fine if you don't like or appreciate modern architecture. But you're not seeing the building as it was originally intended. And you have to respect the fact that even if you don't care for that building, it has inarguable architectural significance.

Maybe you'd prefer that we demolish this Denny's-like building, as you call it, and erect some neo-historic piece of Disneyland-esque gingerbread?

Brian Libby

Using LED lights would definitely be a way to make the rose less horrible by virtue of at least using less energy in its ridiculousness.


Isn't Denny's noted for the 'googie' genre of architecture?

From wikipedia: "Googie architecture is a form of novelty architecture and a subdivision of futurist architecture, influenced by car culture and the Space Age and Atomic Age."

Nothing wrong with that style, but it's not the POVA building. I guess Denny's still has a good business going, but I haven't had to eat there in years, so I don't pay much attention to the style of buildings they occupy. I don't recall seeing anything much around that looks like the POVA building. It seems to be kind of a rare example around here.

As an example of modern architecture, it's not a favorite of mine, but I think it's good enough that it should be kept around for others to see and learn about. The original interior that I've seen in a couple photos, looks very interesting, so I hope the festival association will return it to that. I wish they'd use a better material for the exterior siding. Oregon's climate just eats up that painted plywood. The building's looks will be greatly improved when that pimp paint job is corrected.

Jeff Joslin

I unequivocally share Brian's acknowledgement of this stunning act of preservational beneficence Commissioner Leonard and his office have orchestrated. It's hard to imagine this deferred-maintenance-intervention happening without the focused leadership, attention, and resources the Commissioner's brought to bear on the Center.

As I note in the other blog now covering this matter (http://blogs.wweek.com/news/2009/04/16/rooftop-rose-a-thorn-in-the-side-of-local-designers/),this makes the inclusion, and defense of the rose all the more curious.

It’s precisely the magnificence of this effort that calls the rose into greatest question. There’s likely no dispute among preservationists that the National Register nomination the Commissioner now proposes would preclude such an element in the future (of course, one way to know for sure would be to, at the least, seek advisory input from the Landmarks Commission). If this is true, there appears to be a break in logic between this remarkable preservational effort to be applied to the landmark structure, and the arguably desecrational act of capping it with the stylistically foreign neon object.

And for the record - I'm not opposed to the rose per se, and this is not for me first-and-foremost about the sidestepping of applicable regulations (historic design review, obviating the sign code). I believe there is a suitable graphic solution out there, perhaps one that's more sculpturally ephemeral and less imposing on the Landmark. It's why I've proposed working the graphic challenge through the public art program, which would result in some more careful consideration that would neither diminish the integrity of the historic resource, nor the integrity of the related public processes.

I'm thus still hopeful Commissioner Leonard and Council might consider at the second reading (and final vote) segregating the rose from the remainder of the ordinance, in order to allow this additional consideration.

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