Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fire + one year.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Like Brian over at Portland Architecture, I attended the 40th anniversary Blazers preseason game at Memorial Coliseum a few nights ago as much to appreciate the building as to root for my team. As the sky darkened before the start of the game, what really struck me was how elegant the building looked with the lights on and the curtains up. It is a classic minimalist piece of architecture that inspires reflection and invites milling around. How many times have you wanted to wander all around the Rose Garden arena and its environs to check out the different angles, perspectives, and vantage points? Never? I didn't think so. With the corporate-feeling Rose Garden, the emphasis is on getting in and getting out. With the MC, there's a whole lot of glass between in and out, and when you're inside the arena you can't help but appreciate the translucence of the curtain wall that rises above the seats on all sides. It feels like a true civic space.

Watching the game, I felt torn about how much the Coliseum should be altered during any future renovation. Now that it has historic landmark status, the bar has been raised in terms of the need for thoughtful approaches to any major changes. It is without a doubt the coolest sports arena I have ever been inside, and for that reason I hesitate advocating for the removal of the arena bowl. At the same time, I also found myself thinking about something Brad Cloepfil said once about how he felt that Portland needed more parks with less programming, the kind of places that invite civic imagination and activities not pre-sanctioned by design. It would be interesting to see how MC could be de-programmed, in a sense, or at least turned into more of a multi-programmed facility. Perhaps some combination of indoor square (Pioneer Square's rain-free sibling), public market, contemporary arts space, or the like -- a place of connections that celebrates our civic commons. Emphasize the views of downtown. Connect the west side of the building to the river with a vast plaza over Interstate Avenue that stair-steps down to the river and connects to the MAX station. Throw in some housing. Art studios a la the Torpedo Art Factory in Virginia. A sculpture garden. A ferry terminal.

If the city really is going to run with a "Jumptown" theme for a re-imagined Rose Quarter (recognizing that the Rose Quarter itself represents the wholesale gutting in the last century of one of Portland's oldest and coolest neighborhoods), then the re-imagined Memorial Coliseum should be the centerpiece, a sort of town square for a new neighborhood that incorporates plenty of housing and retail along Broadway (a clear nod to that demolished richer past), and also emphasizes underground parking as much as possible. There is simply no way to restore a sense of neighborhood integrity and urban fabric with the amount of above-ground parking that currently exists there. It's time to pony up some serious money, Portland.

In closing, I still feel taken aback by Mayor Adams' failed push for a hasty demolition of MC beginning this January. While the rabid support shown for that foolish idea by the increasingly irrelevant Oregonian editorial board didn't surprise me (after all, they've also been hollering in vain for the biggest, most-mega CRC possible) it was kind of an inexplicable move for a guy who has billed himself as a design-conscious politician. One that I am still struggling to understand.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009