Architecture: gifts to Portland

The Art Museum North Wing. The new downtown County Courthouse. Lents. The Post Office blocks. Interstate Avenue. The remaining blocks in the Pearl. South Waterfront, a gateway to our city. Downtown parking lots. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard deserves it. BODS – our new hall for Ballet, Opera, Drama and the Symphony. The Morrison Bridge west ramps. The MAX bridge over the Willamette. Opportunities are everywhere. Opportunities to shake off the soggy blanket of 'just good enough', 'on time on budget' as the sole guiding principle, or 'it's better than we've done before'.


Look to Bilbao, to Berlin, to little Columbus, Indiana, even to Seattle. It's not so much about the money, that can sort itself out, it's about the desire to do something that is really good. Remember that Bilbao had to build a new airport because their economy grew so much after twelve people dared to think big.


To do a work of architecture that is as good as we can possibly make it. That soars, that brings our Portland community together and gets us really excited. That captures our imagination. Something beautiful Oregon deserves. A great design has an idea behind it that is brilliant, followed up by a story. A written piece that settles the design into history, into its context, into its community, into how it engages people, can easily be written about a great piece of art or architecture. It makes people think.


You know a great piece of architecture when you see it from outside, usually, or maybe it’s a little more subtle, and waits until you walk through the front door to capture you. Walk through the Mt. Angel library door to see what I mean. Especially at sunset. Light, space, material, color, sound, smell, the people within, are composed into a total piece that engages the senses and gives an uplifting feeling. Maybe even an exhilarating feeling. We talk of bringing our community together. Architecture can do it in a very physical way. If we take the leap.




by Stuart Emmons

The Oregonian Blog, March 4, 2008