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Thankfully, it was finally finished after sitting uncompleted when Gray Purcell closed shop late last year.

Now, only question is, will it sell? I'm going to go out on a limb (not really) to suggest that because prices exceed the maximum allowed for a traditional, conforming loan, and because of the dip in prices of existing homes, not many people will be able to get a loan or sell their place on contingency.

Hope the developer has deep pockets.


FYI the yellow car in front of the truly hideous rowhouse is an Audi... but your point is the same.

Max Rockbin

It's easy to be snide about the design of the row houses, but consider that they probably cost 50% less to build. Consider also that Johns Landing, for the most part, is not as upscale like the Waterfront (unsold) new buildings or the Pearl.

The designer of the skinny faux houses faced a much more difficult design problem. Given the budget for building a matchbox Hardieplank (Look It Up) building, how do you give a sense of separation between the units. Ugly is relative.

Seriously. If you don't consider cost as a factor in design, you're not a critic. Just a snob.

Brian Libby


Those are very valid comments. You're right: we've got to make sure there are ways for quality design to be able to get done on small budgets. But there are all kinds of projects in Portland that have demonstrated such ability in a far better way than these skinny houses do.

While it's admittedly not an apples-to-apples comparison of designs looking at the Sophia's View and the stuff across the street, I don't believe that skinny houses like this are the only way to solve this kind of design problem. Even a version of the same basic form with a little more honest, contemporary handling of the details would have been an improvement on this gingerbread.


I agree. I'd want to be hanging on the roof. Especially on hot, nice nights like tonight. Fire up the BBQ!

Roof is the new black?


those aren't skinny houses, they are townhouses. skinny houses are a strange invention by portland planning folks that require side yards for some inane reason. townhouses make much more sense, even if these aren't the most well executed.

as far as budgets are concerned, greed plays into it too. i know good developers that don't ethically agree with building crap, and take less profit as a cost of doing the type of business that allows them to sleep at night.


and more on point, i like the project by henneberry eddy. clear, well executed ideas.


Max - It's a fallacy to believe that a budget obviously requires a dumbed down solution. The Lower Ninth Ward housing (look it up: makeitrightnola.org) has demonstrated good architecture can be made on a comparable budget. I wish developers here in Portland would catch on, they're filling available lots with some of the lamest work we've seen in years. (See row houses above.)

Scott R

I agree that the townhomes across the street at best represent an expedient solution for spaces like this, especially when contrasted with The Sophia.

Also, fyi, Macadam is State Highway 43 - State Highway 99E is SE McLoughlin


Small budgets should not be used as an excuse for poor design. My guess is however that whoever designed the row houses probably did so thinking that they were quite handsome.


I don't get it. Why pick on the townhouses across the street? There need to be options for everyone. Who is to say that they should be 'designed better' when in all actuality, the people who own them probably love them. They probably loved the price, too.

Not everyone is into 'high design'. Granted, they should be, but that's why we have both Formula 1 and Nascar, Design Within Reach and Walmart. Everyone is different.

I think a lot of people could look at the Sophia's View complex and see a very cold, uninviting series of boxes.

I do like Sophia's View, just doing the old Devil's Advocate jig.


Well said Austin. I still find it curious that someone appears to appreciate a well designed automobile (Audi TT), and not a well designed house... but maybe they were just visiting a friend with poor taste. (Oops, was that snobby? Sorry)


Those row houses could be built for way less than half of what SV was built for on a net salable sq. ft. basis. Probably closer to 1/4. The developer of the row-houses probably made money and Hartman probably will lose money on his project.

Even the Ninth Ward houses would be magnitudes higher in cost.


Yes, how dare anyone have different tastes, they must be morons for not wanting to live somewhere that looks like a bunker. I'd like to know what "honest, contemporary handling of the details" you'd recommend. This is an over-used and mostly meaningless cliché i hear all the time from architecture critics (along with "clean, simple lines", but usually without any actual constructive suggestion. And yes, the sweeping generalizations and myopic put-downs are indeed snobbery at it's best.

Brian Libby


I'm sorry to hear you seem to be pretty upset. My apologies if you or anyone else were overly offended by the fact that I found the town houses across the street ugly.

This is a blog about architecture. I've never said my opinions are more informed or more correct than anyone else's. But I am completely within my rights in finding them ugly. In fact, most readers come to this site to hear that kind of commentary. Just because you happen to not agree with it doesn't mean that it invalidates my opinion. I'm not insistent that you agree with me; why should the reverse be true?

You're right that phrases like "clean, simple lines" are cliche. In the plainest description I can think of to use here, I just find the proportions of the town houses across the street to be ugly, and I also dislike the faintly neo-historic style. I'm not saying it's wrong to favor either of those, nor is it wrong for a developer to seek a design that maximizes profit. But I believe many architects could have delivered a project that still maximizes build-out potential while utilizing an aesthetic style that, to my eyes, feels less trite.

I don't think any of this constitutes snobbery. But I might suggest such defensiveness toward those town houses denotes a particular insecurity.


well said all ,a good debate is healthy. A note on skinnyhomes ,
they provide much better privacy and acoustics. As anyone who has lived next to a Slayer fan would know , there is no way to design a party wall to keep out your neighbor's screaming party at 2am.[I know lame joke,'party wall]
I have done big expensive lofts , and the first thing you hear is , 'I can hear my neighbors'.
I have also done some skinny homes , and folks love them , they have windows on 4 sides , for light and air. They have better design modulation , bldg/space/bldg. etc.


Hard to say without having seen these in person, but going by your photos... I don't actually find them particularly attractive (from the exterior--interiors look very nice indeed). The condo block in particular just doesn't look like it's going to be held up as a shining example of late-2000s architecture in another 10 years.

Yes, they're more "contemporary" than the rowhouses across the street. Yes, they're better designed. But are they THAT much better?


sophia view is basically the same thing as the townhouses across the street, just dressed better.


nj - you're spot on. No legitimate assessment of Portland's architecture during the Bush Administration can be had without considering the influence of consumer capitalism. Until then we're just whistling Dixie.

Matt J

Well, this sure has turned into an interesting discussion, or comparison, of neighborhood “architecture”. For me, the difficulty I have with the painted skinny houses across the street has nothing to do with their actual aesthetic look (not that I am too keen on that), but more with the poor urban design associated with them. Working within this neighborhood, I am constantly surrounded by these types of developments that show no real interest in being a part of a neighborhood. They are interested in creating an inexpensive singular living solution for those who live there and nothing else. Think of a street of these (which there are around here) – where do your friends, who drive, park when they come to visit? Around the corner, because your street of curb cuts has destroyed this opportunity as well as any sense of sidewalk, and thus pedestrian, life. For me, these are suburban solutions where everyone wants a two car garage with its own private garage door and driveway. What about a single drive that all three share (Sum design studio’s east side development) thus allowing actual pedestrian walk ups off the sidewalk? And, where did this love of walking up 12 feet of stairs to your front door begin? That first 30 feet of pedestrian experience is crucial – why would I want to ground that experience in a wall of garage doors?
With regards to the project at hand, I too have pondered the question of roof top access in Portland’s developments. One visit to Chicago, and seeing how everyone there utilizes the rooftops, will make one wonder about why we forgo these amazing opportunities. This project I had a chance to walk through with the owner a number of years ago truly showed me the opportunities available on this front. There are no pictures of it directly in the link, but one can see the exterior circular staircase connecting the two outdoor roof decks.


Based only on the pictures, I don't find the Sophia or the condo above it very interesting buildings, but they're not awful, and they kind of fit nicely with the contour of the hillside.

A little ways away on Corbett, is a whole long continuous wall of condos built in the past few years. The 'wall' treatment really degraded that section of Corbett.

The pictured trio of skinny houses across the street are cute. They look like they'd present a cheerful welcome to someone coming home from a hard day's work. Except the unit in the middle might not have enough windows.

I don't like it when planners and developers allow too many of them to occupy an area. Too many of them together can be oppressive.


Brian - do you happen to know who the construction lender was for this development?


I'm not very familiar with this particular neighborhood, but I've walked along both Corbett and Macadam in the vicinity. If I had a choice as a pedestrian, I'd take Corbett, especially if I wanted to walk to the north. A public staircase connecting the upper end of Seymour to the sidewalk along the west side of Corbett would be a tremendous improvement for pedestrians. Also, there's probably enough space to build an accessible bike/pedestrian path below Corbett linking the end of the sidewalk on the north side of Seymour to the sidewalk on the east side of Corbett near the I-5 exit ramp.

I wouldn't say that the townhouses on the north side of Seymour are hideous, but ordinary. There are at least four more of them in that row besides the three shown in the photo, and it's true that a street can feel oppressive when the same building type is repeated block after block. While I agree with many of Matt J's comments, I think the curb cuts and sidewalk on the townhouse side of Seymour are better than those on the Sophia's View side. The sidewalk on the north side of the street is set back a bit from the curb, allowing for tiny planting areas between the townhouse entries and the street. This results in a less "humpy" sidewalk on the townhouse side as compared to the Sophia's View side of the street. Walking downhill on a smoother sidewalk is less jarring to the knees and back.

There appear to be more segments of curb along the south side of Seymour to allow for parallel parking, but I see a "NO PARKING" sign in Brian's photo, so I'm not sure curbside parking is allowed there, anyway. For such a steeply sloping street, having guests park on a driveway instead of searching for a spot at the curb isn't awful. I think many visitors would rather park on a relatively level driveway than worry about cars rolling down toward Macadam.

I'm not fond of driveways across the sidewalk every 20 feet, but at least the garage doors are relatively narrow, and the townhouse entry doors are located on the uphill side of the units. Some improvements to the design of the townhouses would've been to have lowered the driveways closer to the grade of the public sidewalk and to have raised the entry doors to at least halfway between the garage floor and floor above (and to have added small porches). I've seen such streets in San Francisco with numerous curb cuts and driveways, but they are still wonderful for pedestrians.

Philippines properties for sale

Absolutely stunning - I love the staircase and wish I could live in a house like that someday. There was so much light and space. This is a very good blog you've got here!! I'm definitely going to bookmark it!

Deirdre G

garage door panels

Hey thanks for the great advice!

We recently had the exact same issue with our garage door. Hopefully I never have to do that once again, what a PITA to fix it was! My wife likes to park within the garage though so I had to get it fixed otherwise I would in no way hear the end of it. I've in no way had to repair one before however it turns out that it's fairly straightforward to fix. And the parts are readily obtainable at most hardware shops or you can pick them up cheaply online as well. It only took a couple several hours to take out the old components from the garage door and get it in working order again, so I was pretty happy about that, and so was the wife!

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