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Interesting that Luckman worked with NASA. I've long marveled at how the W-F Tower resembles a rocket on a launch pad - thanks in part to the adjacent(via sky bridge)building. If there is one building in Portland that screams that it "is of its time", this is it. I like it. Not saying I would want a fleet of them, but I like it and always have.

As far as SOM goes, I don't think any firm had a bigger impact on the Portland central city - post WWII - than they did.


I've always quite liked the Wells Fargo Tower. I'm no fan of the pod across from the tower but the main unit itself I think is quite sleek an attractive. Standard Plaza is, in my opinion, downtown Portland's finest building. I was pleased to find out recently that it was LEED certified.

It is amusing hearing someone from ZGF criticize a building for having a "moat" when that has been so many critic's first complaint about the Jaqua center.


@Val - I've always thought the exact same thing about the WF tower, even about the skybridge!


"I have a fondness for the Wells Fargo as an expression of mid-20th Century modernism and its desire to remake the world."

Be careful about that statement. Lots of movements have wanted to remake the world. If you replace "Wells Fargo" with any interstate highway constructed during the same era it can lead to a frightening conclusion that our highways must be preserved because they're historically signifcant of the era, despite their crippling nature on their immediate surroundings and cities as a whole.

I think we shouldn't value buildings solely because they serve as an example of a movement. Shouldn't they offer some greater value to their surroundings and users also?


"Be careful about that statement. Lots of movements have wanted to remake the world. If you replace "Wells Fargo" with any interstate highway constructed during the same era it can lead to a frightening conclusion that our highways must be preserved because they're historically signifcant of the era, despite their crippling nature on their immediate surroundings and cities as a whole."

I actually think there is a case to made for highways being preserved. Should we get to a point where they are no longer useful, saving some would serve as a useful memorial to the world we departed from. Buildings that typify a place, a time or movement do offer a greater value to their surroundings and users. They tell a story and provide a context for places. Not everything should be razed into the ground when their time is perceived as past. That is the paradigm that informed the massive urban-renewal projects of the middle of the 20th century that left us bereft of so many important neighborhoods and buildings.


Having a conversation about preservation and Luckman, even mentioning Madison Square Garden, but no ironic comment? Am I missing a link in my Arch history? Did not the destruction of Penn Station make way for his building? Those bold aspirations also brought us preservation.


"Having a conversation about preservation and Luckman, even mentioning Madison Square Garden, but no ironic comment? Am I missing a link in my Arch history? Did not the destruction of Penn Station make way for his building? Those bold aspirations also brought us preservation."

Great point! The interstate highway system was another, perhaps, the biggest reason we have the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It would seem counter-intuitive to want to preserve these resources but among them is the history and context for the organized American preservation itself and its regulatory accomplices.

Brian Libby

Great point, Matthew. Funny the few degrees of separation in architecture as everything else.

Brian Libby

Mike, I don't think it's counter-intuitive to preserve midcentury modern. More like ironic. But nevertheless, EVERY era should be preserved, at least some of the best examples of it. And while the anti-preservationist attitudes are one of the least likable tenets of that era, I think many of us agree that some of the buildings that resulted from this time have a unique beauty. You and Matthew are of course correct that I should have pointed out Luckman's connection to that watershed, galvanizing moment of the original Penn Station's destruction. But I don't think those sins provide an argument against preserving the Wells Fargo, or from celebrating its strengths as we're mindful of its weaknesses.


Has the lighting on this building changed recently?


The WF building is certainly one of my favorites. I love the size, the sky bridge and the pod across the street. When I read the achitect's poll I was shocked (and amused) to see that it was at the top of the "worst" list, and even more shocked that one of my personal "worst", that big pink mess, was at the top of the "best"! I guess there is no accounting for (uneducated & untrained) taste.


Never understood why people like the big pink. It's a common structure that can be found in every major city in America. It's not unique nor is it aesthetically nice to look at. The lobby feels like it's underground when you walk through it. Did I mention it's PINK!

The WF's lobby is so nice with it's glass walls. You know, bring the outside in. I love everything about it especially the pod.

This is why architecture in Portland stinks! Architects in this town have no TASTE! Well they do the only problem is it's really bad.


The Wells Fargo tower is one of the most hideous buildings in a downtown area that prominently features hideous buildings. In fact, most of Luckman's designs, in my opinion, were hideous. Now, hideous is being touted as the new chic becuase it's unique. Ugly is ugly. Period.

Ben Rhiger

I've always been fond of both the Wells Fargo Tower and the Big Pink. Growing up in Portland on the east side, they really made Downtown feel like, well, Downtown. The big pink wonderfully and warmly reflects our abundant grey skys, and standing at its base -- usually waiting for the bus in the rain -- I've always felt a bit like I was in some canyon in the Gorge, like Eagle Creek or Oneonta. The Wells Fargo Tower has this kind of ancient monumental quality that has always excited me, and like the Big Pink, it interacts well with our climate; all that white marble brightens things up while still feeling earthy.

It's always been a little annoying to me when folks have such negative reactions to these buildings. While I'm relatively young (25), I've seen Portland change a great deal in just the last decade. I have a sentimental attachment to these structures, as they seem kind of dependable and decidedly uncool. While much of the rest of the city is being transformed into this sexy/sustainable LEED certified jungle, with DWELLesque renovations popping up everywhere, the Big Pink and Wells Fargo Towers remind of a Portland that seemed less confident and awkwardly endearing. Raising those towers in the 1970s was a bold statement of optimism about the cities future, but they must have seemed totally ridiculous to many; Portland was like a little city trying on big city clothing. To me those buildings represent an innocence, naivete, and, oddly, an intimacy that Portland loses a little as we sell this image of ourselves as a "Green City". While this nostalgia may not be a selling point for historic preservation to most, it is to me. Of course memory and personal experience are what really drive people to save a building...

Brian Libby

Boy howdy, there, Marc, how do you really feel?

I'm sure you realize that your opinion is just that - opinion. If most all of downtown is so ugly, what do you find beautiful? And if some of America's most acclaimed architects of the 20th century don't do it for you, who does?

This is not about simply being chic. Most of the comments before yours were not only in favor of the Wells Fargo, but came from the personal perspective of people who have lived here a long time or even grown up with these buildings. It's a nice rhetorical effort to try and pigeonhole those who disagree with you as merely following temporary fancy, but it goes much deeper than you give credit for.

Of course you're entitled to find these buildings ugly, but not to lay down a verdict we all have to follow.


A city is vibrant and even magical because of a rich mixture of buildings. The WF Tower is a key part of our downtown mixture architecturally , and deserves some affection for the hope and optimism it represented. That being said , I always remember a remark a Professor at Oregon made , 'the city is like a raison cake, lots of dough and a few raisins.'



I've lived here since before the WF tower was built. My history goes back a ways with these structures as well. I understand that my opinion is just that. Still, I believe the WF tower comes as close to being empirically ugly as any one building can. Though I will admit it has serious competition from the likes of One Main Place, the World Trade Center, the Edith Green/Wendall Wyatt building, and the Congress Center, just to name a few gems.

Brian Libby

Fair enough, Marc. I can certainly agree with you on the ugliness of One Main Place, the WTC (Portland version), and the Wyatt.

Kenny Bauer

I always liked this building. When i was a little kid i remember taking the bus downtown during Christmas time with my Grandma to go to Meier and Frank. I remember being amazed by the tall steel that didn't have it's glass yet and wanting to check it out. This building began my love of architecture. It was also one of the few buildings that wasn't a STUMP! I still like the marble columns but wish the glass was upgraded to a nice blue or green glaze. I think it would give the building new life. I think PacWest could have been the best if it had been another 200 ft. taller. Again, it looks like it got Stump-a-fide. But back to this story. I too like the whole complex. I like the pod and the skybridge. This building dared to be different. I don't care if Tom McCall was outraged. Those pompous West Hiller's were always a buzzkill to architects. There are plenty of places to see Mt. Hood without making everything a stinking stump. Vision is what is lacking. Or maybe the ability to make a vision happen.

Jeff Joslin

Ah, Billb, i love it when you invoke the ethereal Earl.

About a year and a half ago, when I was still with the City, I received a call from an outraged citizen. "How could you let someone build that horrible building." After a few moments, it became clear she was talking about Wells Fargo. Though she'd lived in Portland for 70 years, she'd just noticed it's perfect blocking of the view of Mount Hood from the Rose Garden.

I explained to her that we had not allowed it, that it had been built in a time with little regulation of such structures, and that it had been responsible for identifying in one project a number of major unacceptable attributes (blocking views, deadening of the street, building to the street lot line, fortress-like facade, ground floor windows, skybridges, height) that had catalyzed and informed the creation of many of the core design expectations and regulations in place today.

I'll admit to appreciating the tower's "crenelated" top, and being floored by Christine, Madrid-French's grounding it in a broader context. However, it's role in Portland's regulatory history may be among its greatest contributions and significant attributes: a primary and early example of the dynamic relationship between architectural expression and Portland's identifying - and concomittantly codifying -community design values.


Personally, I think the strength in Portland's downtown comes not from the buildings but the spaces between them. As a city, we do a really good job there and it seems that there is a bit afterthought with the buildings themselves.

I really love the lines and simplicity of mid-Century Modern Architecture. The problem is that most of these buildings are not very good neighbors. They strive to be so iconic that they wreck the urban pattern around them. The WF Tower is a great example of this problem. Look at the original renderings of Memorial Coliseum. Yikes, good thing that it never totally came to fruition.


I have never liked the WF Tower very much, mainly because the columns/buttresses feel so imposing when you walk by on the sidewalk. It is the one building that always makes me nervous when I am near it. Working on the south side of the third floor did nothing to endear the building to me. Incredibly dark - even on the window-line.

Daniel Ronan

Also, this building detracts from the beauty of City Hall, on the block just to the north. If anything, the height doesn't bother me as much as its complete and utter disregard for the built context in its immediate vicinity.

Although, it could be argued that we could get rid of the parking structures in the area today and perhaps build another tower next to it that would detract from/balance the present intrusion which is the Wells Fargo Building. This could create a context that subdues the "star gazing" of the WF Building.

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