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Brian Libby
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Thanks for your comments, Charles. Glad to hear you liked the posts and that they share a lot of parallels with your experience. To answer your question about comments, things changed significantly a year or two ago when I changed the rules to require everyone to sign in with a service like Facebook or Twitter. I was tired of there being anonymous comments that frequently were personally insulting or generally snarky. To be honest, I think I may have made a mistake in initiating this change, and I have considered switching back. It's nice not getting frustrated by brash anonymous comments, but I do miss the sense of conversation.
Allan, You're right: the NW Examiner was the first to break this story, and they deserve full credit. I did not realize they'd broken the story until reading your comment, so please understand I was certainly not trying to take credit. In fact, I couldn't care less about being first. I just care about spreading the word about the building.
Landon, thank you for your concern, but the photo was actually used with permission. I did crop the image myself. Feel free to email me at if this matter needs to be adjudicated further.
Brian, thanks for the petrochemical clarification. Quite Frankie, I respect your evenhanded take on this - it's true that Portland is not Detroit and the loss of this building can be balanced against the generally good preservation record here overall. But watch those apostrophes. ;)
Thanks for spotting that error, Mike_p. I've corrected the post so it now list the address as Washington and Alder. Sorry for the mistake - I continually mix up those two streets even after 16 years in Portland. :)
Laladyblog, I'm afraid we have a huge misunderstanding. I am not in any way, shape or form advocating that the existing St. Mary's be torn down. I only felt that restoring the Francis & Hopkins building would give St. Mary's a wonderful midcentury-modern building to occupy along with their existing structure. What's more, I'm not at all advocating that only midcentury modern architecture be preserved. Of course not! Boy, I really must not have done a proper job of expressing myself in this post. None of what you're picking up is a point that I made. Sorry for the confusion.
Zef, Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading the post. It's completely understandable if you dislike the aesthetics of the Francis and Hopkins building. However, I like it very much. More importantly, I want to make clear that I am NOT arguing that we should preserve entire eras of architecture. Of course not all architecture is worth preserving. I'm sure that over 90 percent of the architecture built in the 1940s and 1950s is now gone, and that is okay. But just as we should not try preserve entire eras, as you say, we also should not rush to make sweeping generalizations about whole eras or dismiss them altogether. As it happens, the late 1940s was an exceptional time in the history of modern architecture, when architects trained in traditional Beaux Artes style were applying their skills to a new modern era with new materials. Maybe the Francis and Hopkins building is not a masterpiece, but I would argue that it is a modestly exceptional work of local modern style from the 1940s. Whether one likes this particular building or not doesn't matter very much. The important thing is that we agree on mid-20th century modernism's validity and importance, like any historic style. The world will go on if this building is demolished. It's not a black and white issue regarding whether this is a great work, a good one or a bad one. But great cities are collections of architecture from every era, and I believe exceptional 1940s modernism has just as much validity and beauty as any other style. Maybe Richard Sundeleaf wasn't Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, but Mies Van Der Rohe is just as great as Christopher Wren, or Palladio, or any architect in any time.
D and Randy, Taste is a subjective thing, and I appreciate both of you sharing your opinions here. I happen to like the piece. The idea of creating in sculpture the traces of an old warehouse on the site is to me an interesting and compelling fusion of art and history. It's celebrating Portland's Central Eastside industry and tradition. I'm not saying you have to agree with this. But I reject any kind of indignation and supposed community consensus that this is a waste or that it was the result of some kind of uninclusive backroom conniving. The public art submission process here is very transparent, and Lead Pencil Studio is a very highly respected art/design firm. The fact that they've created an artwork of such a large scale means that the piece is going to stand out and, as a result, have its detractors. That's fine! Honestly, I strongly dislike LOTS of public art, so I can sympathize with your coming out against "Inversion." Just don't try and make this a case of the big bad elitist government picking art that the community universally hates. Because that's an exaggeration bigger than this artwork. And if you want to argue that public art shouldn't be part of new transit lines, or that the city shouldn't have a "1% for Art" program, I can't even dignify that with a response.
Great point, D. Which is why I have expressed regret about the comment. My point is being lost here, it seems, because I used an unfair term. I honestly don't think it's as simple as being for one's neighborhood and its interests or being against it. I think density is like anything else: it's good up to a certain point. There's some kind of threshold that's hard to pinpoint precisely but at which a neighborhood can feel overrun with cars and people. But that threshold is much higher than the density accomplished with single-family houses alone. Division Street is better in general, I think, for having most of the new development there. But I can also understand feeling overwhelmed if one lives within a few blocks and had been used to parking in front of the street. I'm just saying, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I like these projects mentioned in the post, but the higher-density project without parking that was halted by the city may have been not so good.