Architecture in NW Portland

June 23rd, 2009

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When weather allows, I’ve been wandering Northwest Portland and observing the diverse built environment. While Northwest is largely affluent, there are still pockets of light industry, so the mix of architectural styles is fascinating. While my tastes in residential architecture skew to the more modernist end of the spectrum, I’ve also come to appreciate fine examples of older style homes that can’t be found elsewhere in the city. Northwest is also an enjoyable place to stroll around because of all the hidden urban treasures, like obscure public stairs sandwiched between hillside houses. This area is also probably one of the oldest sections of Portland. Many streets are named after early settlers (Lovejoy, Quimby, Flanders, et al) and a few rehabbed structures still remain from the turn-of-the-century era illustrating creative adaptive reuse.

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Trolley Lofts
I would have never guessed this structure use to serve as a trolley barn if I hadn’t found a weathered placard on the other side of the block. Signs of old trolley tracks are all over this area – probably due to the usual chronically deferred street repair. I don’t know if this happened in other cities, but it looks like Portland wiped out its old trolley lineds by simply paving over the tracks. But back to the trolley lofts. A couple of these units are for sale, like a lot of condo buildings here in town, so I’ve had a chance to read the sales flyers. I even had a chance to tour one, but I declined due to lack of time. It would have also seemed weird touring a 700K loft I would never be able to afford. But the lofts seem really nice from the sales pictures I’ve seen. And the square footage is around 2,000+ which is quite generous for this area.

West Hills
This is where Portland’s old money lives and the stale architectural reflect this. Not much in the way a mid-century modern, but there are a few ’70s homes that have been renovated nicely. I know there is a Skylab designed residence in the area (from the movie Twlight?), but I just haven’t run into it yet. The West Hills are a wonderful place to take a relaxing walk (or difficult run) since it’s such a peaceful area, but I often feel uncomfortable walking amongst all the million dollar homes. I mean, you never see anyone out working in the yard or playing with children, even though every driveway has at least two cars in it.

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Portland Fire Station #17
At first I thought this little firehouse was still in use, but then I went to the Portland Fire Bureau website and it wasn’t listed as an active station. I suppose it’s too small to actually accommodate emergency vehicles, but I guess I thought that maybe it’s still used for administrative purpose. Not quite sure what the building houses today.

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Thurman Street Lofts
Look, I like this recent trend toward using wood cladding. The Randy Rapaport/Holst Architecture condo on Belmont is a great example of this. But this (Holst?) building just got it all wrong. There should be a balance here, some kind of contrast to the color and texture provide by the vertical slats. This building makes about as much sense as Segway polo. And if the overuse of wood slats wasn’t bad enough, it’s compounded by the fact it’s not even being well maintained. Would it kill the HOA to power wash the exterior once a year and either water seal or stain it? UPDATE: I’ve found some images of the original Holst design and it has different types of siding and it looks far better than the finished product. What happened?

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