I am an architect who moved to Oregon when I was 21, looking for a place that would allow me to be who I was. And, let me become who I wanted to become. I sought out a place where my creativity and social leanings could make a real difference. I wanted to help build a city that fostered a diverse community of people, that was both urbane and close to the outdoors. A place that could inspire me to reach my potential.
I had grown up in Philadelphia, lived in New York, Boston, London and Los Angeles. I especially loved New York and London. But these cities are more complete, their direction is pretty much set, and it is hard to make a difference. Los Angeles and Philadelphia showed me how a city can pave over its surrounding natural beauty with concrete and asphalt if people become a bit self-absorbed. The free flowing, creatively charged Los Angeles of the 1950’s was now sadly choking on smog and traffic and racial and economic disparity. Also in LA, it was challenging to form communities of people around a culture of cars, and it seemed like many were wary of each other.
I like challenging problems, but I also like to know that I have a chance to help solve them.
I drove across the country, leaving what was familiar behind, through prairie and dry desert. My drawing table stowed in the trunk. It hit me when I was half way through the Gorge. This place was special, it smelled fresh, it sparkled. The towering cliffs and magnificent trees framed a panorama I had never seen the likes of before. An hour away, Portland came into view. It was love at first sight.
Portland is now emerging from the smaller city that I entered in 1976 to a much larger, very different place. Tower cranes are sprouting up all over. Roads are getting congested. Developers jockey to put up product. This is the time to remember what makes this City special, and build a City that Oregon deserves.
by Stuart Emmons
The Oregonian Blog, February 26, 2008