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!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Two Recent News Items

image is from Norberg-Schulz: Sverre Fehn : works, projects, writings, 1949-1996 (1997)

Sverre Fehn Passes Away at the age of 84

Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn died on February 23rd, 2009. A New York Times article of February 27th details his career.

Fehn's architecture is well represented in the VRC's digital image database and in the 35mm slide collection. His Archaeological Museum in Hamar (1967-79) is a favorite of professors teaching design and studio in the College of Built Environments.

image is a Peter Cohan original

Archives Building Collapses in Cologne, Germany

The city archives building in Cologne experienced extreme structural failure on March 4th, collapsing into a heap of rubble that includes the minutes of all Cologne's town council meetings held since 1376, personal papers of world-famous authors, philosophers, and historians, and a half a million photographs.

The six-story concrete building was constructed in 1971 and was considered state-of-the-art at the time. Ominous cracks were noticed by staff in the cellar of the structure last year, but there was no warning of the building's complete collapse on March 4th.

Read more about the collapse in the London Times Online, Spiegel Online International, and the BBC News.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Oregon State University archives online

Mt. Hood and Timberline Lodge, 1943

"In an effort to broaden access to its image archives, Oregon State University has become the first university to join Flickr Commons, a section of the popular photo-sharing service devoted to making historic images available to the public."

(Read more of this article in the
Chronicle of Higher Education)

Flickr Commons was launched in January 2008 and its first partner was the Library of Congress. The goals of Flickr Commons are "to increase access to publicly-held photography collections, and to provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge."

The Commons is a really useful and interesting repository of images that Flickr members can download, comment on, and tag.

Other contributing organizations to Flickr Commons include the Brooklyn Museum, the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney, Australia), and the Library of Congress.

Flickr Commons is a great resource and contains lots of useful images !

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beijing's TVCC Building up in flames

The TVCC building in Beijing, designed by OMA and Rem Koolhaas, has been destroyed by fire. The building sits next to the Z-shaped CCTV building also designed by OMA and Rem Koolhaas, nicknamed the Shorts by locals.

The fire has been covered by Architectural Record.

The TVCC building was still under construction -- the downturn in the global economy created delays in its completion -- and was to house the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, as well as other retail and entertainment facilities.

Rem Koolhaas and OMA have ties to Seattle, designing the Downtown Public Library in 2004.

Koolhaas' work is covered in the VRC's digital image database and can be found by searching on "Koolhaas" in the keywork search field. (contact the director for a password if you don't already have one!)

Friday, January 30, 2009

UW subscribes to ARTstor

The University of Washington has purchased a subscription to ARTstor, "a digital library of nearly one million images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences with a set of tools to view, present, and manage images for research and pedagogical purposes."

"ARTstor is a non-profit initiative, founded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with a mission to use digital technology to enhance scholarship, teaching, and learning in the arts and associated fields. "

ARTstor is a subscription service, which means the UW pays an annual fee to use the digital library. I hope you will try using ARTstor to see if the images they have can be of use to you!

There are several training videos about ARTstor on YouTube:

If you want to see other ARTstor videos, go to YouTube at

and search for ARTstor.

ARTstor has extensive coverage of the cave paintings at Dunhuang, for example,

and a number of really fine Cezannes.

Alan Michelson, the architecture librarian, and I are always ready to help users with ARTstor; drop by the BCE Library or the Visual Resources Collection for assistance!


Heather Seneff
Visual Resources Collection
College of Built Environments
University of Washington