Archive for the ‘Research & Work’ Category


The Historian position implements historic and historic architectural cultural resources projects, leads projects and crews, and prepares professional reports of findings. The Historian prepares proposals, responds to client needs, and to the media to meet project goals.

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Eighty years ago, on May 3, 1937, a new library opened at the University of Oregon and on October 23, 1937, the building was formally dedicated.  The historic building is a monument to the Depression Era public works programs which financed its construction and remains one of Oregon’s best examples of integrated art and architecture.  This guide is intended to provide a foundation of historical information for the additional study and contemplation of the building and its art.



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Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Photo copyright Alana Couch.

Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Photo copyright Alana Couch.

The 2015 Elisabeth Walton Potter (EWP) Research Award was given to Christina Gray for her proposal, Client Relations:  Arthur Erickson and the Musqueam First Nation.  The project is an outgrowth of Ms. Gray’s dissertation research at UCLA, on the role of clients in architectural culture during the 1970s.

From the EWP Award proposal:

Arthur Erickson has been well celebrated as an architect formed through the architectural heritage of the Pacific Northwest.  However, the role that his clients have played in contributing to his work remains understudied.  This project proposes to examine the complex interplay between Arthur Erickson and his clients as a way to investigate not only his particular methods of practice but also the influence of the region upon his work.  Focusing in particular upon his 1976 Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, this research hopes to uncover how the complicated combination of client stakeholders that included both a public university and the Musqueam First Nations were addressed historically in the architectural process as well as in the finished built work.

Ms. Gray is interested in engaging with the Native Youth Program that is run through the Museum of Anthropology, potentially publishing a piece in their self-published zine or Urban Native Magazine as a way to outline the historical narrative of how the Musqueam Nation interacted with Arthur Erickson in the creation of the museum.  In parallel to this, she hopes to publish a more extensive article in a publication dedicated to the heritage of the Pacific Northwest, as well as in C Magazine and/or Border Crossings to reach a broader audience.

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The Marion Dean Ross chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians is pleased to offer the 2015 Elisabeth Walton Potter Research Award.  The purpose of the EWP Research Award is to further awareness and knowledge of the architectural heritage of the Pacific Northwest.  Awards range from $500 and $2000 in any given year and are awarded to from one to several recipients per year.  Applications for the award are due by September 15, 2015.  Recipients of the EWP award are expected to make a presentation on their research at the following year’s Society of Architectural Historians Marion Dean Ross conference.  This year the SAH MDR conference will be held in Ashland, Oregon, October 23-25, 2015.  For an application form and more information, go to:  http://www.sahmdr.org/awards.html

In 2013, the EWP award provided assistance with two research projects.  One award was given to Professor Anne Marshall for her paper entitled, “Indigenous Architecture: Creating the Museum At Warm Springs,” and one was awarded to independent consultant Liz Carter for her research, “Mid-Nineteenth Century Dwelling of Oregon Black Pioneers: A Brief Historical Context.”  In 2014 the EWP Award went to a team at Washington State University headed by J. Philip Gruen and Robert Redder Franklin who are preparing entries for the national Society of Architectural Historians’ (SAH) Archipedia Project.

A Note for Applicants

The selection committee is open to a wide range of proposals.  It has supported research in its initial phases, research that is well in progress and proposals from emerging scholars as well as established professionals.  The core requirements are that the research focuses on the Pacific Northwest and that the applicant is a member of the SAH MDR.  Student membership is free, while general membership costs a nominal $15 ($12.50 if you’re already a member of the national SAH).  Applications for the Potter Award that are submitted by non-members will not be reviewed.  So, sign up at http://www.sahmdr.org/membership.html.  If you’re unsure about your membership status, send a message to info@sahmdr.org.

About the 2014 Award Recipients

Pacific Science Center and Space Needle (mostly Yamasaki, 1962) Seattle, WA. Photo by D. Pinyerd.

Pacific Science Center and Space Needle (mostly Yamasaki, 1962) Seattle, WA. Photo by D. Pinyerd.

The SAH Archipedia is essentially an online version of the venerable, but slow to be released, Buildings of the United States series of books published under the auspices of the SAH.  In contrast with other online resources, such as Wikipedia, Archipedia entries have a more certain pedigree and are guaranteed to be written and reviewed by experts in the field of architectural history.  The Potter Award will help the Washington State University team provide small stipends to researchers who will produce descriptions, analysis, photography, and data regarding Washington’s 100 most significant works of architecture for the free online resource entitled “SAH Archipedia Classic Buildings.”  Greater depth, and entries beyond the initial 100 is available to subscribers and members of the SAH.

According to Gruen’s and Franklin’s Potter Award application:

“The Washington Archipedia builds upon earlier research for the SAH Buildings of the United States series, compiled originally by members of the SAH/MDR chapter.  That work drew upon the 1940 state census—before the post-World War Two urban population boom when rural areas featured a greater percentage of the state’s population—to help ensure more equitable geographic coverage that otherwise might be dominated by the architecture of cities bordering the Puget Sound.  While including many significant works of architecture from those cities (such as Seattle and Tacoma), the Washington Archipedia project will proceed in the spirit of the older survey, thereby ensuring that nearly every county or region of the state finds representation. This also will allow for a potentially wider array of building typologies.

B Reactor (credited to E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 1943-44), Hanford, WA. Photo by B. Niederer.

B Reactor (credited to E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 1943-44), Hanford, WA. Photo by B. Niederer.

The contract specifies for 100 individual entries of between 250 and 2,000 words, but it does not delineate criteria for what constitutes “significance”—historical or otherwise.  While many buildings, landscapes, and districts targeted for this project will be fifty years of age or older and designed by notable architects (there will, of course, be many entries focusing on the older architectural heritage of the state), the Washington Archipedia project is not intended to be an online guidebook with little more than names, dates, and “historical facts.”  To help readers understand the architecture of the Pacific Northwest, the project coordinators will occasionally push the traditional limits of “historic significance” by including buildings, landscapes, and districts whose importance lies in their stories, events, memories, or ideas—not strictly in their aesthetics, styles, or fame of their designers.  We feel that greater understanding comes from approaches that often extend well beyond the proverbial bricks and mortar of buildings.

To that end, a cultural landscape approach to the built environment may occasionally be appropriate.  This will permit analysis, interpretation, and justification for sites as diverse as the Parkade in Spokane; the Freeway Park in Seattle; the B Reactor at Hanford Reach; and the plan of Longview.  As the architecture of the Pacific Northwest has gained a widespread reputation for its pioneering efforts in “green” and sustainable design, landmarks in energy conservation and renewable materials also will find a place in the Washington Archipedia, from Mithun’s Island Wood on Bainbridge Island to Miller|Hull’s Bullitt Center in Seattle.  Washington might be among the last states to join the Archipedia project, but we intend it to be progressive and up-to-date in its subject matter and approach.  We hope it will set a standard for online architectural archives.”

Gamwell House (Longstaff & Black, 1890), Bellingham, WA. Photo by B. Niederer.

Gamwell House (Longstaff & Black, 1890), Bellingham, WA. Photo by B. Niederer.

The selection committee of the MDR SAH was impressed by both the scope of the Washington Archipedia project, as well as the applicants’ thoughtful approach toward the subject, particularly the question of what constitutes “significance.”  To that end, Phil Gruen composed a lengthy blog post for the SAH, titled “Washington State Slept Here: SAH Archipedia and the Question of Significance.”  Are you curious about what the WSU team has tagged as significant?  A draft list is available by clicking Washington State Archipedia 100!  The finalized Washington State contribution to Archipedia is set to go live during the summer of 2016.  As of August 2015, entries for 19 states, including the District of Columbia can be perused at http://sah-archipedia.org/.


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I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Amanda Clark as our new vice president!  This is exciting because 1) the post has been vacant for about a year, and 2) Amanda will be a great addition to our team!  Here is an excerpt from her ‘position statement’: “Amanda C. Roth Clark, the daughter of professor and architectural historian Leland M. Roth, grew up hearing about architecture at her father’s knee as he read books to her about Frank Lloyd Wright.”  Clark has a BA degree from the University of Oregon, with a minor in architecture, and an MA from U of O with a thesis that focused on French Neoclassical architecture.  She also holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Alabama in Communications and Library Science, and is now the Director of the Library at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA.  Amanda co-authored the third edition of Understanding Architecture with her father, and is presently collaborating with him to produce an updated edition of American Architecture.  We met Amanda and her husband Tony Clark at the annual meeting in Seattle.  If you didn’t get a chance to meet her then, please welcome her next time we get together!

Members touring the Wing Luke Museum during our 2014 conference in Seattle.  Amanda Clark can be found at the head of the table.  Photo by B. Niederer

Members touring the Wing Luke Museum during our 2014 conference in Seattle. Amanda Clark can be found at the head of the table. Photo by Bernadette Niederer.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to introduce the rest of the board and provide an update on what they’ve been doing (and for the basics see our website: http://www.sahmdr.org/).

  • Bernadette Niederer is our faithful Secretary, a duty she performs with great value-added verve and wit.  She is also our blog editor, so the person to contact if you’ve got something to post.  She is a graduate of the University of Oregon Historic Preservation program and is an associate at Historic Preservation Northwest in Albany.  She and Dave Pinyerd are at present writing a National Register nomination for the Andrew Jackson Masters house, an 1853 residence that is being restored.
  • Mimi Sheridan is our Treasurer and also served as our conference lead for the 60th anniversary conference in Seattle last year.  Not only did she organize an outstanding conference, by all accounts, she arranged for excellent weather.  Most recently Mimi, principal of the Sheridan Consulting Group, has been conducting a survey of 1250 properties in the Montlake area of Seattle.
Tudor Revival House in Montlake neighborhood, photo by Mimi Sheridan

Tudor Revival House in Montlake neighborhood, photo by Mimi Sheridan

  • Our Regional Delegate for Canada is Harold Kalman, from Vancouver, BC.  Hal is retired from consulting but continues to focus on part-time teaching (in Hong Kong) and writing.  In 2012 he published Exploring Vancouver.  More information can be found at http://www.haroldkalman.ca/
  • Our Regional Delegate for Idaho is Phillip Mead.  Phil is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Architecture Program at the University of Idaho.  He is a past president of SAH MDR and has for the last several years done an excellent job of coordinating our conference’s paper sessions.  Phil is currently working with U of I colleagues to document historical buildings in Idaho for the Society of Architectural Historians on-line database of historic properties Archipedia.
  • Our Regional Delegate for Oregon is immediate past president Edward Teague.  Ed is the head of the Architecture and Allied Arts Library at the University of Oregon, a position he has held since 2001.  He holds degrees in Art History and Library Science.
  • Our Regional Delegate for Washington in Philip Gruen.  Phil is Interim Director of the School of Design and Construction at Washington State University and has recently published Manifest DestinationsHe is the lead for the Washington State Archipedia Project.
Weyerhauser HQ

The Weyerhauser Headquarters in Federal Way will be featured in Washington’s Archipedia. Photo courtesy the Seattle Times.

  •  Our Membership Coordinator and Website Manager is David Pinyerd.  Dave, another graduate of the University of Oregon Historic Preservation Program, is a founder of Historic Preservation Northwest in Albany.  Dave fulfills his duties, in part, by keeping us organized with humor and grace.
  • Lastly, I am National Register Coordinator with the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office.  A lingering project from my consulting life is a 300-property survey of Sonoma Valley, for the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation and Sonoma County Landmarks Commission.  A recent activity is presenting a paper on Regional Modernism on the West Coast at the Society of Architectural Historians Australia/New Zealand conference last summer.

We look forward to seeing you in Ashland next fall!  Although it will be hard to top Seattle, we’ll do our best to bring you another great conference!

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The Marion Dean Ross Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians is inviting applications for the 2014 Elisabeth Walton Potter Research Award.  Awards range from $500 to $2000 for research that furthers awareness and knowledge of architectural heritage in the Pacific Northwest.  The application deadline for the 2014 award is July 31, 2014.  For more information and an application, please visit the SAH MDR website at: http://www.sahmdr.org/awards.html.

Last year’s two award recipients were Professor Anne L. Marshall, PhD, of the University of Idaho; and Liz Carter, Preservation Consultant and Adjunct Faculty at the University of Oregon.

The Elisabeth Walton Potter Award was given to Anne Marshall to expand on her research into culturally appropriate architectures that meet the needs of contemporary Indigenous communities.  The project began as Professor Marshall’s dissertation, “Indigenous Architecture: Envisioning, Designing, and Building The Museum At Warm Springs,” and will culminate in the publication of a book.  Anne Marshall has presented her findings at numerous conferences and professional gatherings, including at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Marion Dean Ross Chapter of the SAH in Spokane.  She is also scheduled to be a speaker at our 2014 meeting in Seattle.

The Museum at Warm Springs Entrance.  Photo by Anne Marshall.

The Museum at Warm Springs Entrance. Photo by Anne Marshall.

The following text is an excerpt from Professor Marshall’s successful application for the 2013 Elisabeth Walton Potter Research Award:

The Museum at Warm Springs: Exterior of changing exhibits gallery, dance plaza, and administration wing.  Photo by Anne Marshall.

The Museum at Warm Springs: Exterior of changing exhibits gallery, dance plaza, and administration wing. Photo by Anne Marshall.

 “It is not clear how to design culturally appropriate architectures that meet the needs of contemporary Indigenous communities.  Although historical forms may have some cultural relevance, they do not necessarily represent who an Indigenous group is today and they are unlikely to accommodate contemporary building programs.  Because few Indigenous people practice architecture, many Indigenous clients hire design professionals from outside of their communities.  Fundamental differences in world views, ways of thinking, and modes of communication challenge both Indigenous clients and their architects.  How do Indigenous clients and their designers overcome these challenges?

Changing exhibits gallery, ceiling detail.  Photo by Anne Marshall.

Changing exhibits gallery, ceiling detail. Photo by Anne Marshall.

Research thus far suggests that collaboration—within the interdisciplinary design team and between Tribal members and designers—proved to be key to the success of this project.  A one-week on-site design workshop allowed time for Tribal members and designers to develop trust, communicate, and work collaboratively.  The workshop allowed time for designers to recognize the primacy of storytelling which became the conceptual foundation for the landscape design.  The natural world was the inspiration for the building design.  Architects sought to design a building that represented the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and they did this by using forms, materials, and colors from the landscape along with forms alluding to traditional buildings.”

Liz Carter was an Elisabeth Walton Potter award recipient for her project titled “Mid-nineteenth Century Dwellings of Oregon’s Black Pioneers: A Brief Historical Context.”  Liz was an intensive participant at the 2013 SAH MDR meeting in Salem, providing the contextual backbone for the opening night’s panel discussion on Pioneer Era Homesteads, and presenting a paper on the following day.  Her research on African-American pioneers is already reaching out to wider audiences.  At the 2014 Oregon Heritage Conference a collaboration between the Oregon Black Pioneers (OBP), a non-profit group, and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) was announced.  The goal of this project is to expand the data in the Oregon Historic Sites database to include more comprehensive information about the early African-American experience in Oregon though formal scholarship as well as crowd sourcing.  For more on the project, visit the OBP blog, find forms to contribute information at http://makeoregonhistory.org/, and to see the results to date, check the Oregon Historic Sites Database and search for “African-Americans in Oregon, 2014” under “Group Name.”

Gorman House - 1-story section is circa 1857, 1.5 story section is circa 1866.  Photo by Liz Carter.

Gorman House – 1-story section is circa 1857, 1.5 story section is circa 1866. Photo by Liz Carter.

From the application:

” The African-American pioneer story in Oregon is not widely known, and scholarship on associated buildings and sites is minimal.  Few are aware that there are several identified sites, including a small handful of mid-nineteenth century houses still standing, with inextricable links to the important and under-recognized aspect of Oregon’s history.  While the general histories may have been explored to varying degrees, the study and research of buildings in terms of who built them, the social circumstances of their construction, potential provenance, and/or similarities in form or method of construction to dwellings in the east have not been clearly addressed.  Two examples are described below.

Interior of Gorman House with  original fireplace/chimney of hand-made bricks and mud mortar. Photo by Liz Carter

Interior of Gorman House with
original fireplace/chimney of hand-made bricks and mud mortar. Photo by Liz Carter

The circa 1856-1866 Hannah and Eliza Gorman House in Corvallis is perhaps the oldest residence remaining in Oregon with direct ties to people who were brought to the territory as slaves, but there are others throughout western Oregon.  The Gorman house story is unusual in that it appears to have been constructed by Hannah and Eliza Gorman, former slaves, in a time when property ownership by people of color was illegal in Oregon.  The oldest portion of the house displays some similarity to single-pen slave dwellings found east of the Mississippi.  The Cora Cox House outside of Brownsville, dated to circa 1864, was also constructed for and owned by a former slave woman.  The land on which the house was built was sold to Cora by her former owner for the sum of $10, and it is presumed that construction followed soon thereafter.  The designer and/or builder is not currently known.

Cora Cox House, Brownsville.  Photo from http://makeoregonhistory.org/

Cora Cox House, Brownsville. Photo from http://makeoregonhistory.org/

Both buildings have been the subjects of study by University of Oregon students in recent years.  At the Gorman House, student work focused largely on exploring the building and making preliminary determinations about historical archaeological potential on the site.  In addition, the property owner has done fairly extensive genealogical research (to the degree possible) on Hannah and Eliza Gorman.  The building itself was analyzed by Mary Gallagher and Philip Dole over ten years ago, and subsequent analyses have brought a better understanding of the building’s construction history in terms of chronology, but not in terms of potential “ethnic signatures” that may be inherent in the building’s design, materials or construction.  The Cora Cox House was the subject of National Register-level research and documentation, but a detailed analysis of its construction was not undertaken.  Neither building has been discussed or studied within a broader context of African-American, slave or former-slave architecture in Oregon.  In order to better understand these buildings and others with similar histories, a wider view of the historical and architectural context in which they were created is needed.”

The SAH MDR board and members congratulate the 2013 Elisabeth Walton Potter Award recipients and thanks all who applied for their excellent proposals.  We look forward to reviewing another batch of interesting research topics in 2014!



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The 1849 Monteith House in Albany, Oregon, home of the town founders, Thomas and Walter Monteith.

The 1849 Monteith House in Albany, Oregon, home of the town founders, Thomas and Walter Monteith.

Prepare for our annual meeting in Salem (October 18-20), themed “The Willamette River Valley: Settlers and Founders” by checking out the Historic Preservation League of Oregon’s (HPLO) 2013 Most Endangered List.  This year’s list includes Pioneer Farmsteads of the Willamette Valley (1840-1865).  With support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the HPLO has commissioned Pioneer Era Houses and Homesteads of the Willamette Valley, Oregon 1841-1865, a report by chapter member Liz Carter.

The first section of the report deals with the historic context, describing early settlement practices and building technologies.  A broad statistical analysis makes the case for the rarity of these early resources.  Though there were roughly 4634 Donation Land Claims within the study area, only around 311 Pioneer era dwellings were known of at the beginning of the study.  Parallel to the report, Kenneth Gunn of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) conducted a re-survey of  the known houses.  While information about these resources is now easily accessible on the Oregon Historic Sites Database under the “Settlement Era Homesteads of the Willamette Valley” grouping, the results of the survey were alarming.  Of those 311 known resources, a full 56 no longer exist and another 38 were substantially altered.  Accordingly, the second part of Pioneer Era Houses… deals with “Threats and Recommendations.”  The threats are common to historic structures in general:  lacking awareness of resources’ significance, development pressures, difficulty in adapting to modern use, and statutory disincentives (e.g. taxation on disused buildings).  Likewise, the recommendations have a familiar ring:  education, networking and outreach, expertise, and resources (things like money and time rather than the historic resources themselves).  The next phase of the overall project is to create a Multiple Property Documentation (MPD) National Register listing for the Willamette Valley’s Pioneer Era Houses and Homesteads.  While it is hoped that an MPD will aid currently unlisted properties in taking advantage of the limited opportunities that National Register listing provides, the larger act of creating the grouping itself could create ample opportunities for both education and networking.

With all that in mind, our annual meeting will feature a panel discussion with some of the movers and shakers behind the Pioneer Houses… report.  Stay tuned for more details on the time and place.

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Detail of mural by Runquist Brothers

Chapter member Ed Teague presented the lecture, The Ghosts of Knight, on May 31, 2012, at the University of Oregon Libraries, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the opening of the  library designed by Ellis F. Lawrence, now known as Knight Library.

Ed surveyed the key artists and artisans responsible for the Depression Era masterpiece.  Those featured include Lawrence, Brownell Frasier, the Runquist Brothers, Edna Dunberg, Louise Pritchard, O. B. Dawson, Frederick Baker, and Frederick Cuthbert.

The presentation was recorded and can be viewed via UO Channel, by following this link:

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#6 in the Research & Work Series

MDR/SAH member Tyler Sprague is a doctoral candidate in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington.  He holds both bachelors and masters degrees in Structural Engineering, as well as professional licensure in California as a professional engineer.  His research focuses on the architecture and engineering of post-war modernism around the world – highlighting the intersection between the two disciplines, and the collaboration involved in designing the built environment.  His doctoral dissertation examines the work of Matthew Nowicki – a prominent international modernist who designed the first tension-cable roof system for the Dorton Arena in 1949 and the first design for the Indian city of Chandigarh in 1950.

Tyler first introduced the MDR/SAH members to the Hyperbolic Paraboloids of the Northwest during our 2011 Annual Meeting in Boise with his Wendell Lovett Award winning presentation “Hyperbolic Paraboloids in the Northwest: A Module of Post-War Modernism.”  Soon he will expand on this work with a preservation survey of the building type, a project that is partially funded by an Elisabeth Walton Potter Research award from our chapter.

Grant County Fairgrounds Grandstand, Moses Lake, Washington. Built 1963, Cowan-Paddock-Hollingberry, architects; Jack Christiansen, engineer. Photo by Tyler Sprague.

Thin-shell concrete construction was a signature of the late modernist movement in architecture.  Light and efficient, this construction type was embraced by architects and engineers alike, as a means to minimize construction materials while obtaining a dramatic aesthetic effect.  Specifically, the use of the hyperbolic paraboloid – a geometric surface generated from the rotation of straight lines – was widespread and became a defining shape of post-war modernism.  Utilized by design professionals around the world, multiple variations emerged – each with their own architectural nuances and engineering challenges.

This type of construction was widely used in the Pacific Northwest for a variety of building types.   While relating to the global trends in architecture and engineering, thin-shell construction in the northwest developed its own local characteristics, becoming part of the post-war architectural identity of the region.  During his presentation at our annual meeting in Boise (2011), Tyler Sprague briefly surveyed the hyperbolic paraboloids of the region between the years of 1950 and 1973, and then investigated a particular modernist building in detail – the 1959 S&W Properties Office & Laboratory Building (S & W Building) in Seattle.  Designed by the architect John Rohrer for the firm Naramore Bain Brady and Johanson (NBBJ), and the engineers Worthington, Skilling, Helle and Jackson (WSHJ), this simple building deploys thin-shell concrete hyperbolic paraboloids in a distinct way, revealing the regional considerations that guided the modernist principles at play. This building is approached as a hybrid work of architecture, engineering and construction practice, focusing on the idea of a module as an organizing element.  A module – a scalable, repeatable unit – as a generator of architectural and structural form is revealed in many aspects of the building.  From the roof system, to the seismic restraints, to the vertical screens, this building strikes a careful balance between repetition and variation, regularity and diversity, monotony and chaos.  The modular mentality of the architects and engineers demonstrates a dedication to the modernist efficiency of material and economy, yet also an intentional response to site-specific concerns.

This construction type, and the use of purely geometric forms, contributed to the region’s emergence on the global modernist scene – establishing local architects and engineers as active members of a larger movement.  Yet this specific merge of architecture and engineering also displays the ingenuity and creativity that came to be known as Northwest Modernism.

Many hyperbolic paraboloids, once considered innovative and exciting structures, are now close to fifty years old and are coming under threat of demolition.  While the engineering principles behind them remain constant with their form, lack of maintenance, changing economic demands, and evolving construction trends pose threats.  Often too young to be deemed historic, the paraboloids’ efficiency of construction (thin shelled concrete or wood) make them easy targets for demolition without regard for their history or uniqueness.  While there has been increasing activism regarding the preservation of Mid-Century resources, paraboloids have often been neglected as many lack the cachet of a name-brand architect and were often used in commonplace applications, such as the Grant County Fairgrounds Grandstand, pictured above.  The next phase of Tyler Sprague’s project seeks to better understand the architecture and engineering of these structures, document significant works, and raise a preservation-minded awareness of these unique structures and the people responsible for them.  In order to achieve this, Tyler plans to visit and photo-document existing paraboloids, noting their design characteristics and condition.  A 2005 interview with engineer Jack Christiansen identified over 43 structures that he was associated with.  An additional 20 have been found through historical archives of the Seattle Times and the now defunct Pacific Builder and Engineer magazine.

At a pessimistic minimum, Tyler Sprague’s research and work would provide a record of an architectural and historical trend prior to the anticipated demolition of many of these structures.  However, by bringing attention to the architectural and engineering complexity presented by “parabs,” by placing them within a larger context of a region-defining trend, and by creating a report that includes examples of renovation and reuse strategies it is hoped that more can be saved than will be lost.

Links for More Information:

Tyler Sprague on Hyperbolic Paraboloids and Northwest Modernism at UW’s ARCH[BE]LOG

Jack Christiansen Biography at DoCoMoMoWeWa

The Thin Concrete Shells of Jack Christiansen by Edward Segal

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#5 in the Research & Work Series

 MDR/SAH member Camille Behnke is a Ph.D. Student in Art and Architectural History at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and plans to write her dissertation on a Pacific Northwest topic.  She received her Master’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Oregon in 2008.

Many of Camille’s research projects have focused on educational facilities.  They include:  The Architecture of Women’s Education, 1770-1830.  Three case studies: The Abbaye de Pentemont, the Salem Girl’s Boarding School, and the Litchfield Female Academy; School and Home: A history of Charlottesville schools and their neighborhood frames; and Papel Picado: The Children’s Museum of Lake Elsinore, her U of O Graduate Thesis Project.  Her Women’s Spaces and the Shaping of Early Portland is not exclusively focused on education; it nevertheless plays a significant role, featuring places such as the Girl’s Polytechnic School.

Women’s comfort station at 6th & Yamhill. Photo Courtesy University of Oregon Libraries. http://oregondigital.org/u?/archpnw,5392

Women’s environments are often positioned as subcategories of the male-dominated public realm and are thus often understudied in comparison.  Portland has a rich women’s history which can be witnessed and understood through key architectural monuments.  The purpose of this project is to investigate and analyze these significant structures from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century.  During these approximately one hundred years of Portland’s genesis, places for women to convene, learn, educate, and retreat held significant importance.  These women’s spaces reflected a time of great social progress as the women’s rights movement gained speed, achieved women’s suffrage, and came to stay at the fore of cultural debates.  These structures, whether a school, community center, or hotel parlor, were used primarily by women and played specific roles in the development of cultural ideals and in the organization of the female fabric of the city.  By studying these female dominated structures, spaces, and their neighborhood frames, this project hopes to bring to light female values, visions, and skills during a time when women’s power and place in the home and in the city was on the rise.

The goal of this project is to create a series of in-depth maps that trace women’s architectural and social movements throughout Portland’s early days.  These maps will diagram and outline women’s space in Portland over time, and will serve as a catalyst for more detailed forays into specific structures.  Deeper investigations will be conducted on a few specific sites to ascertain critical information regarding the design and construction of the spaces, how the spaces were used, and the women who occupied them.  The Portland Women’s Union  (PWU) has begun to list a few of these structures: the 1887 PWU founding location in the Unitarian Chapel; the first women’s residence Hall, Anna Lewis Hall from 1889; the 1898 Industrial School held in the Children’s Hall; the Portland Hotel; the YWCA; the Women’s Exchange at 4th and Alder; the Martha Washington Hotel for Women; and the Girl’s Polytechnic School which was located at 14th and Morrison and was once touted as the “Marvel of the West”.

Portland Girl’s Polytechnic located in what was originally Portland High School (built 1885, demolished 1929), SW 14th & Morrison. Image courtesy of the Houk family.

This project draws on numerous resources.  The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has an extensive bibliography of publications and academic writings on women’s history in Portland and the Northwest.  The Portland Women’s Union, as mentioned above, has a timeline and suggestions of women’s locations related to their organization.  There are several relevant archives such as those at the University of Oregon, the Oregon Historical Society, and the Portland school district.  Other documents with relevant information include Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, the United States Census and The Oregonian newspaper.

By identifying and placing these women’s sites in space and time through the vehicle of maps, the project hopes to define networks of female relationships during a crucial period of women’s rights and investigate how the built environment represents ideals about women and their position in early Pacific Northwest society.  Ideally, the final project will include a website and brochures or plaques with QR codes (bar codes that can be scanned with an internet enabled phone) linking to the website.  The website will display the maps described above as well as photographs and archival images, diagrams, and textual descriptions.  With this technology in place, anyone passing by a site, whether on a casual stroll, a directed walking tour, or as part of a classroom project, can have access to multiple layers of information.  Additionally, the website can serve as an interactive forum for comments, discussions, or research additions.

Links for more information on Portland Women’s Spaces throughout history:

Portland Women’s Foundation Website

Bibliography – Women’s History of Portland & Oregon from Portland Planning & Sustainability

More on the Comfort Stations at 6th & Yamhill from the Vintage Portland Blog

Women in the Oregon Encyclopedia

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