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Sunday 06.18.06

« The Winner of PORT's 1st Annual Pretentious Art Writing Contest | Main | Lawrence Robbin at Yes »

Tram a-lamma ding dong

*Update, The tram is now complete

The beginnings of the aerial tram's middle tower as seen from the east

The 20 story tall middle tower for the innovative and uber controversial aerial tram by AGPS architects is finally rising right next to I-5. Apart from being an impressive engineering feat it certainly does look good in its aluminum skin (yes some would rather have a log ride).

Look, I like the project... it's the first bit of really innovative architecture to rise in Portland in decades and considering how many design jobs exist in this city it may be the first real outward symbol of the sea change taking place here (sophistication wise), besides the art scene. An armada of condos alone do not make for sophisticated citzenry and Portland is learning to not hide its strengths to the outside world anymore.


Yes, Brad Cloepfil's Weiden+Kennedy building was actually the first design triumph but that was a historic renovation and from the outside it still looks like an early 20th century warehouse. The tram, although mismanaged and pitched at first as a ludicrous 15 million dollar project (just eyeballing it I guessed 35 million) is still worth it at 57 big ones because it is outwardly symbolic. On many levels the Portland butterfly is leaving the cocoon here and yes there were some growing pains in this project. Still, I'm a taxpayer and I see it as a hell of a lot better than stunt architecture like the Space Needle. It speaks to Portland's Euro-pragmatism.

Oh and did everyone see this about Portland being the Best European city in America?... (whatever that means)

Posted by Jeff Jahn on June 18, 2006 at 23:23 | Comments (16)


I'm all for Portland growing up and not trying to shrink down and just pretend to be a big town. But while this chariot for doctors may be an intrigiuing design, it's a tremendous waste of public dollars that could have been put into a new baseball stadium, say, in the Pearl where the Post Office stands, infusing the nouveau Pearl with some soul and being a much bigger economic boon to the city. Making a bunch of investors rich and pampering doctors wasn't a great use of our tax dollars. As usual, our city elders have made some very peculiar decisions.

Posted by: Vila [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2006 11:50 PM

1.) The tram provides service to the largest employer in the Portland metro area, getting employees (from food service personnel to brain surgeons) to work NOT to mention patients who need care (PERIOD).

2.) The design is innovative and challenges the city's growing skyline.

3.) This project anchors an entirely new extension beyond the invisible urban growth boundary. The Pearl is DONE.

Posted by: TJ Norris [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2006 08:39 AM

I don't know about a baseball stadium, but a Mud-bogging track for SUV's would be a great addition to the Pearl District.

Posted by: jerseyjoe [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2006 12:49 PM

A baseball stadium would be the death of the Pearl... Randy Gragg's worst idea ever (look what the stadiums did to Seattle's art scene!, theyve only now recovered). Better to put stadiums where Portland Public Schools has its admins. Not that I think Portlanders are all that down with any pro-sporting events... ok organic wrestling.

Instead, the Pearl needs to develop itself in terms of cultural toursism... it fits with the restaurants and galleries.

As for SoWa and the Pearl I think it's high time someone did a condo project that beats the Belmont Commons (which are great and getting some national attention)... so far nothing has even threatened it.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2006 07:06 PM

The tram is going to be amazing, and thankfully, I didn't have to pay for it, as I am a Washingtonian. :) And yes Jeff, nothing would kill the Pearl more than a stadium. Could you imagine? Trying to have a relaxing night in the Pearl and all you can hear is a crowd screaming and doing the wave. No thanks, I'll pass.

Posted by: Calvin Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2006 08:20 PM

Yes, God forbid if there was some excitement in the pretentious Pearl, the Land of Rules.

Seattle has monoliths for stadiums. They are monstrous edifices the size of the Pyramids. No one ever suggested that for Portland. A smartly designed, intimate stadium by HOK would really help to make the Pearl and Old Town more well-rounded place.

Now the tram may be amazing, but it would have been a whole lot cheaper to supply the doctors with limo rides for a lifetime up Pill Hill.

The Pearl used to have the perfect mud-bogging street for SUVs by PNCA until they paved it. You could hit those potholes/mudpuddles after it rained pretty hard.

Posted by: Vila [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2006 09:19 PM

does portland need a stadium? i'm a little confused. there's pge park only a few blocks away from the pearl. if it's professional level sports that are desired, it seems that the city can't sustain them as evidenced by the trailblazers. why sports? why not music?

doctors are easy bait if you don't understand their lives. they make money because they deserve it with little time to spend it. they do meaningful work that benefits many people-especially in a research context. in addition there are, as tj norris pointed out, many, many other people who will benefit from the tram. how would providing a stadium to a bloated sports organization make portland a better place? a poor argument against something that's going to happen anyway.

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 20, 2006 08:28 AM

Doctors are great. And I have no problem with them earning millions. They deserve it. They study hard for a lifetime, work impossible hours and are placed under incredible demands.

I'm saying a ski lift might not have been the greatest use of public funds ever. And I don't think the number of people that use it will be very great.

PGE will make a fine MLS-only facility, hopefully sooner rather than later.

But for Portland to step up to the next level culturally, Portland needs to lose its small-town attitude (ironically, the tram may give it another reason to do so) and attract big-city talent, whether it's more major-league teams, Fortune 500 companies or the next Guggenheim.

Portland isn't supporting the Trailbrazers at their former level because they ignored the fans, hired malcontents and had terrible ownership. After their sale is complete, you will see things slowly return to their old level.

Music? I don't their is a city in America that is more supportive of music than Pdx.

Posted by: Vila [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 20, 2006 11:41 PM

If you look at the tram as a discreet solution to a discreet problem, ie connecting the city's biggest employer to its newest neighborhood then it looks like a progressive even ballsy solution. Its just one step.

Somehow the city needs to get its school system spending under control while increasing that spending... thats a big task. The Tram is inexspensive and simple by comparison. As far as sports go... I think the city just wasnt so into the idea of pro baseball. Other sports may do a lot better. Im not so into team sports except soccer and dont you just love how the named our lacross team the lumberjacks?

We have beavers, lumberjacks, timbers and the trailblazers... whats next? Id love to see a football team called the tree huggers, but its never gonna happen... maybe call the team the Portland Forest and call the fans the tree huggers... its wierd enough for me to like.

But before all that the school thing has to be solved.

Still I'd rather see a cultural focus and the city could make a targeted advertising push touting the cultural tourism thing here.... and you know the tram will be on logos everywhere.

My point is you takle these discreet issues one at a time, you cant bundle the OHSU exspansion problem with the school problem, nothing would get done.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2006 08:59 AM

good point about the schools. it seems that things are working themselves out a little bit with the most recent developments. i'll take suburban schools over dealing with the turmoil of an urban district again.

why the impatience with the rate of growth in pdx? for the size of the city there are a lot cultural amenities that you don't find elsewhere along with the progressive politics that support it. i hear/read a lot about how things aren't good enough but from my perspective things look pretty good. there is a lot here and though there's nothing wrong with pushing and making more of it, what's the harm in enjoying what exists and supporting the infrastructure. i have a feeling that there is a lot of enjoyment being had while grumbling about how much needs to be done.

the public never agrees on those things that are publicly funded. they hated millenium park in chicago while under construction but now most tolerate it and even may harbour feelings of love. same for other grandiose projects. it might happen with the tram.

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2006 10:43 AM

I just read in Relevant magazine (a Christian mag that is trying to be hip and trendy but doesn't really succeed), and article about the Top 10 cities for "twenty-somethngs." Portland came in at #5. The funny thing is that they describe Portland as once being the most God-less city in the U.S. but the church community is expanding here. I don't know why, but I thought all this was funny.

So apparently Portland is doing something right because Relevant mag says so. :)

Posted by: Calvin Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2006 04:02 PM

We are on everyone's top 5 list. We should just call Portland the official top 5 city.

But you know I just can't stand those Rolling Stone magazine rankings... just an opportunity to debate why they rank John Mayer as a better blues guitarist than Peter Green (who wrote black magic woman) nonsense. Yes folks I have obsessions beyond art (tennis, camping and music).

Also, being called the best European City in America is a strained title... I would have worded it differently. How about: most European style city. Portland retained its 19th century style bocks and we have tons of mass transit all built with the core nestled into the pocket of the 1000ft high west hills... it is kinda Swiss (the tram will cement the association). Also, Peter Schjeldahl once called Portland "Sweden with SUV's."

Still, that was back in 2000 or 2001 and now everyone is buying old Mercedes and new VW's to run biodiesel in them, SUV's seem so passe.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2006 04:30 PM

The Best European "award" was a little weird, but whatever helps to bring more recognition to Portland as a cultural center is rather beneficial. Notice you never see Seattle on any of these lists.

Posted by: Calvin Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2006 08:22 PM

here's a tip: move to the suburbs and help change the face of politics in america.

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2006 08:23 PM

never gonna happen... Ive done my time growing up in the burbs. I prefer either the country or an urban environment.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2006 09:55 PM

more on the tram tower... yes it's even taller now: http://cyclotram.blogspot.com/2006/06/tram-tower-grows-taller.html

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 22, 2006 11:50 AM

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