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Wes Shoger
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Is "Adaptive Reuse" a section at Powell's Books? If so, Emily and the architect should check it out. Snark aside, the Powell's and the architect do great work and great things for the city overall, but in the end this project is an act of vandalism. Just because a building has not been leased in two years does not mean it's the building's fault. I have a feeling all options have not been considered here. I simply don't see how such innovative forces heading this project can't do better than just tearing down a building? Surely they can do better than this.
1) I don't think graffiti has anything to do with the economy. Even in good times its prevalence is rampant. I was walking around the Eastside last week and noticed quite a few vacant buildings and for lease signs. Naturally, the local "creative class" seems to enjoy tagging these buildings. Gee whiz, maybe someone will open up a shop and employ your marginally artistic existence if potential owners knew they could open a business and not have to deal with the cost of repainting their building? 2) This whole idea that ancient civilizations and cultures had graffiti, and that because they did, it's OK to do in our time is erroneous (cue Banksy's image of a guy power washing cave art). First off, that's a logical fallacy -- an appeal to antiquity. Secondly, we do not know the circumstances of how the art on those walls came to be. Graffiti's definition usually includes vandalism, without knowing if specific wall paintings or carvings were an act of true vandalism, how do we know if it was truly graffiti? Not all wall art is graffiti. Anyways, I'd like to think the human species has evolved from knuckle-dragging cavemen. Oh, and the Romans, don't get me started... 3)The idea that a city neighborhood association has to take time out of their night to march the streets to stop graffiti nutjobs is downright sickening to me. People keep telling me about Portland's livability. What's so livable about being victims in your own neighborhood and relying on volunteers to keep your property secured? That's just sad. All in all, graffiti is a huge drain on Portland's economy. Let's assume all graffiti was absent in the city. I think the city would see millions more in private investment. Until then, businesses will be reluctant to open up shop in marginal areas and residents, tired of being vandalized, will just move to Beaverton or Vancouver and skip out on rehabing that cute home. Oh well, it's bland, but it doesn't get your blood boiling when you awake to see your home or local business defaced. If cities want to grow and stop the catabolic and environmental catastrophe called sprawl, I'd suggest they start addressing issues that truly affect livability. And graffiti is very high on that list. Who wants to live in a city with high property crime? And yeah, that will take more serious prosecution of graffiti crimes. Who cares if you chase some arrogant, self-described (put a bird on it) artist? Seattle and New York run circles around Portland's art scene and they aren't detracting artists from setting up shop in their cities with their tough enforcement.
Sure, I made some very sweeping generalizations. I would personally like to err on the side of caution when dealing with preservation as history has proven we were very myopic in building preservation. Especially in Portland despite having some gems still in tact. But I don't need to look at this building more than 10 seconds and note that it has little value in its current form. I might be brazen enough to say it has little rehab potential too (installing windows would ruin the original architect's intent, no?) If I have to look at the entire field of historic building preservation and how I can advance it -- I'm not going to waste my time worrying about ranch homes and cold civic buildings and dead public spaces. There's too much work to do as is for us to worry about this building.
The only people who defend Boston's City Hall and its empty plaza are whiny architects. Most people actually don't like it (despite your mixed bag claims) evidence by the fact that people willingly vote with their feet to NOT go there in the first place. I'd surmise the defenders of this building and others like it will be in the same category. Ironically, this architectural period destroyed so many historical buildings for its freeways, brutalist forms, and Corbusian mentality towards history and context. Why should we afford the same respect to these buildings and its architects? They certainly didn't to other buildings and architects. Architecture has turned into this gigantic esoteric movement. I suppose "normal" people couldn't possibly understand the meaning of not having any windows and a doorway that is hidden in the cold, dark, shadows. What's next? Architectural review for a snout-style tract home in suburbia?
Wes Shoger is now following The Typepad Team
Oct 9, 2010