Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Additions to the VRC!

Place de l'Etoile, Paris

Lewis Crutcher (1921-2000) was an architect and planner in Portland in the 1950s and 1960s. He created these amusing watercolors in 1958, describing them in this way:

During the 50s I was an architect in Portland, but had a chance to visit the famous cities in Europe. I took photos & slides of them, they were beautiful. But when I returned to Portland, I was disappointed. It was too cluttered with signs, billboards, bad trees, and cars.

So I lectured, and showed slides of the European cities and Portland, to city groups, and all the High Schools, and colleges. I was surprised that people didn’t want Portland to be compared with European cities.

Then I had an inspiration, I projected slides of Venice, London, and Paris onto large Water-Color pads, drew the scenes, then added “Portland”… signs, billboards, roof signs, parking meters, bare trees, cars, etc. etc. They were penned and water-colored, then photographed.

Grand Canal, Ponte Rialto, Venice

Those drawings were published by a national magazine, and Portland began to change. Within the next few years a lot happened. One block downtown was converted from a parking lot to the Town Square, now enjoyed by people & groups. Billboards were reduced, in town, and along the local highways, so people enjoy seeing the orchards, fields, even the mountains.

Antique brick buildings that were being destroyed for parking lots were preserved - now a nice part of downtown. The highway along the river was relocated, and it’s now a park. Lots of unnecessary signs were removed. Those sticking out into the street were placed against the buildings, and those on top of buildings were removed so Portland’s skyline is better.

Trafalgar Square, London

These three watercolors were in Doug Zuberbuhler's office until recently. Doug thought it would be nice for them to be on display somewhere, and he brought them to the VRC. I photographed them and added them to the digital image database before hanging them on the wall.

Drop by to visit the VRC and look at the originals of these humorous paintings!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Photos of Toronto!

I went on two architectural tours while I was at the annual VRA (Visual Resources Association) conference in Toronto and saw some really terrific buildings and sites! I took about 150 images to add to the VRC's digital image database.

The first walking tour started at the historic Osgoode Hall (Law Courts) right across the street from the conference hotel. The Great Library is in Osgoode Hall; it is considered one of the most beautiful spaces in Canada.

We visited another beautiful space on the second walking tour: Santiago Calatrava's Allen Lambert Galleria in Brookfield Place. It was built in 1992 after a competition, and was incorporated into the development of Brookfield Place to satisfy Toronto's public art requirements. It is a soaring space that brought to my mind both gothic cathedrals and a forest of tall trees.

We had the good fortune on the second tour to be able to visit the top floor of Mies van der Rohe's tallest building in the Toronto-Dominion Bank Center. Mies envisioned the 54th floor as a space for entertaining and gathering; it has spectacular views of the city.

Mies furnished the building with red oak paneling from the Mountbatten Estate in England, travertine floors, Barcelona chairs, and woven rugs. The bank has preserved Mies' work beautifully, even through a retrofit of updated mechanical systems.

At the other end of the architectural spectrum in Toronto is the Sharp Center for Design buidling by Will Alsop for OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design). This unusual and colorful building is perched high above existing OCAD buildings in a display of bravado which is quite mind boggling. It is visible from the 54th floor of the TD Bank Center, as is its neighbor, the AGO Transformation by Frank Gehry.

The tour also included a visit to the Le Corbusier-inspired Toronto City Hall, built in 1959-65 by Viljo Revell with John B. Parkin and Associates. This view of the City Hall Complex is taken from my hotel room! The two curving office towers surround the domed council chamber like the lids of an eyeball. The rectangular base for these three elements contains the public space of the City Hall. The base is connected to the Nathan Phillips Square in front of the complex by a series of concrete walkways and ramps.

These images and many more are available in the VRC's digital image database:

I will write more about the VRA conference soon!