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Monday 04.20.09

« Stealing Klimt | Main | Rose City still watching The Rose »

Saving Excellence: The Memorial Coliseum

*Update: Mayor Adams reverses his Coliseum position and will take another week to explore alternative sites for minor league baseball stadium. Still the basic issue will focus on the details of this "Entertainment District". Will is be a disneylandish-faux-downtown model (ugggh) or something more civic and rewarding?


Brian Libby over at Portland Architecture has been all over the ridiculous plan to demolish the Memorial Coliseum, one of the very few truly excellent mid-century modern buildings in Portland. He even interviewed one of the original SOM architects behind it.

Portland reflected in the Coliseum's curtain wall of glass

Brian has also pointed out how the coliseum is set up to not make money, so the Oregonian's recent financially unviable and lack of use argument is pretty moot.

BTW, where is the Oregonian's replacement architecture critic for Randy Gragg? It's a key civic post and without it the paper lacks its previous civic design credibility. Anyways, the real blunder here is Mayor Sam Adam's backing of the plan, raising the specter of Sam's often suspected skin-deep infatuation with art and design... i.e. lacking a real grasp of what excellence in art and design requires... which is celebrating excellence (not leveling it). Everyone makes mistakes and it's part of the learning curve but Sam should school up and reconsider renovating and saving the coliseum


The Memorial Coliseum is one of the very few truly excellent designs in the city, and yes it could use some TLC to be sure... but if the gigantic concrete desert around it were re-purposed into a giant open air market and a series of flexible experimental arts destinations it would serve the city much better. The question is, does Portland want to become known for tearing down excellent buildings for the sake of minor league sports teams? Or instead, is this an opportunity to find a better use for a civic jewel that we haven't made full use of recently? Why not turn this civic space into something even more civic?

But First, Let's Rally:

Put on by Mr. Libby, architect Stuart Emmons and AiA Portland, PORT readers have "been cordially invited to a rally opposing the demolition of Memorial Coliseum, one of the great landmarks of Portland Architecture and one of America's most architecturally significant arenas ever constructed - a mid-century modern gem."

When & Where: Tuesday, April 21 at 6PM at the American Institute of Architects' Center for Architecture, at 403 NW 11th Avenue

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 20, 2009 at 11:31 | Comments (0)


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