Tag Archives: mid century

Ballpark Preservation and Its Most Recent Event

civic-stadium-eugene-prefireSince its creation in 1862, the ballpark has continued to have an influential impact on those who experience it. This impact is not only measured by heritage tourism to these sites, like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, but also by how they are preserved. In some cases, such as Fenway Park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, ballparks are preserved in a very traditional sense of the word. However, most ballparks never have the opportunity to reach the benchmarks needed to be preserved according to these preservation standards and are therefore preserved through a variety of alternative preservation methods. These methods, which span the spectrum from preserving a ballpark through the presentation of their original objects in a museum to the preservation of existing relics in their original location, such as Tiger Stadium’s center field flag pole, have given a large segment of our society an opportunity to continue their emotional discourse with this architectural form. Yet, the results of these preservation methods are commonly only the conclusion to a greater act of ceremony and community involvement that preludes them.

civic-stadium-eugene-prefire-002Part of this ceremony and community involvement is the simple act of participating in the ritual that is the game itself. Most often this is conducted through observation, as society, architecture, and sport become one for nine innings. However, other documented examples of ceremony and community involvement that express the level of compassion our society has for ballparks include ritualistic acts, such as the digging up and transferring of home plate. In some cases, this ritual has included the transferring of home plate via helicopter, limousines, or police escort. Ceremonies like this have also included, for better or worse, the salvaging of dirt, sod, and other relics from a ballpark to be, either cherished as a memento or repurposed in new stadiums. Nevertheless, these examples of ceremony only scratch the surface of the depth that is our society’s infatuation with sport and its architecture, more specifically the ballpark.

civic-stadium-eugene-postfireCeremonial Acts & Community Involvement Efforts
Some of the most recent ceremonial acts and community involvement efforts that help to further this commitment to ballparks are the acts executed by the Friends of Civic Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. Founded in 2009, the Friends of Civic Stadium have dedicated countless hours towards preserving one of our country’s last wooden ballparks. These efforts include years of community activism, documentation, fundraising, and grounds keeping. Collectively, these efforts resulted in the prolonged life of the 77-year-old ballpark, as they fought off national corporate efforts to purchase and demolish the stadium. But, in an ironic twist of fate, all of the hard work, collaboration, and time spent on preserving a single ballpark came to an abrupt halt on June 29, 2015 when Civic Stadium caught fire and burned down in a matter of hours. Left with only charred remains and a distraught community, the Friends of Civic Stadium moved on in the only way they knew how, through ceremony.

civic-stadium-eugene-postfire-003Led by the Friends of Civic Stadium president, Dennis Hebert, the organization held a wake in honor of their lost historic building. The wake, intimate in size, resembled a jazz funeral with a procession to the remains of the ballpark led by the One More Time Marching Band. Once at the site of the ballpark, there were multiple ritualistic acts that mimicked traditional funeral ceremonies. These acts included a moment of silence, a passionate speech by Dennis Hebert, and the always haunting rendition of Amazing Grace on bagpipes. After the ceremony, the Friends of Civic Stadium and the friends of Friends of Civic Stadium proceeded back to Tsunami Books where they continued to express their condolences and fond memories of the lost historic ballpark.

Overall, this ceremony is just another example of the power that place and architecture have in our society. Like a living form, architecture, and more notably the ballpark, is preserved and mourned for like a family relative. Yet, when you expand the definition of family relative, the ballpark seamlessly fits in, and that is exactly why we preserve them.

Friends of Civic Stadium
For further information about the Friends of Civic Stadium please visit their website. They are currently collaborating with the Eugene Civic Alliance, the current owners of Civic Stadium and its property, in preserving the historical and cultural significance of Civic Stadium through alternative forms of preservation given its unfortunate fate.

Written by Brandon J. Grilc, Preservation Specialist

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Indigenous Mid-Century Religious Architecture of Oregon

During the 1960s Oregon architects, led by the Portland Archdiocese, created significant examples of unique mid‐century churches and religious structures in collaboration with local craftsman, artists, and influenced by European examples, resulting in a unique indigenous religious Modern Oregon style.

Indigenous Mid-Century Religious Architecture of Oregon

Oregon has several examples of unique mid-century churches and religious structures. Oregon is also rich in mid-century religious architecture that are unique examples of the community and/or church leadership’s interest in combining modern architecture with modern art.
During the late 1930’s Oregon architects were seeking ways to meet both the liturgical programs of their clients yet express the architecture using materials evocative of the Northwest.

Watzek-houseGreatly influenced by the 1936 publication of John Yeon’s Watzek House, Oregon architects began to experiment with wood skins and “Mt. Hood” entry facades reminiscent of Yeon’s design. The idea that wood was symbolic of Northwest character continued through the 1950s and 1960s mid-century modern aesthetics. Local architects like Francis Jacobberger, McCoy & Bradbury, Pietro Belluschi, and others crafter their designs from outside to inside using local species of wood while simultaneously using wood to express the structural elements.

During the 1950s and 1960s, architectural journals devoted pages and images to the increasingly innovative use of concrete as both a structural element and aesthetic material. Local Oregon firms too experimented with concrete. John Maloney’s 1950 design for St. Ignatius is executed entirely of formed concrete. The exterior, interior, and the bell tower are unabashedly presented as an aesthetic material worthy of religious structure. Maloney deliberately painted the interior white to match the exterior and emphasize the versatility and economy of concrete, the new material of choice.

Queen of Peace
One of the most unique indigenous examples of Oregon religious architecture is the Queen of Peace in north Portland. Queen of Peace combines both the engineering daring of concrete with the creative influences from local artists. Queen of Peace is created with clay, river stone, and stunning minimalist concrete structure.

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Queen of Peace was influenced by Friar John Domin who served the Portland Archdiocese as a priest for 57 years, as a pastor of several parishes, a high school art teacher, and volunteer at the Art Institute of Portland. As Chairman of the Sacred Art Commission of the Archdiocese of Portland, he actively engaged in the design process of churches and chapels. He worked with architects and hired ingenious liturgical artists who worked in a variety of media to enhance churches with stunning sacred art. ” (Sanctuary for Sacred Arts website)

bronze-entry-doors-queen-of-peaceWell known Oregon artists, including Ray Grimm, a ceramists, created the dominating Tree of Life mosaic on the west façade. LeRoy Setziol, the “Father of Wood Carving in Oregon,” created the wood Stations of the Cross and baptismal font. Surprisingly Setziol was commissioned to execute the stained glass windows as well. And Lee Kelly, one of Portland’s best known metal sculptors, enriched the church with delicate displays of metal work both on the interior and exterior. Queen of Peace is a marvelous collaboration of architecture, art, and technical daring creating a wonderful display of Oregon indigenous mid-century religious architecture.



Written by Peter Meijer AIA, NCARB, Principal. This post is an excerpt from Peter’s presentation at this year’s DoCoMoMo_US National Symposium: Modernism on the Prairie. Peter is the President and Founder of DoCoMoMo_US Oregon Chapter. For more information, please visit: DoCoMoMo-US

Modern Residential Building Styles

city-of-olympia-survey-pmapdxBuildings constructed before 1965 have reached the age of eligibility for being considered historic by the standards of the National Register. That means that much of Modern Architecture, the general period ranging from 1950 through 1970, is historic, or soon will be considered historic as the 50-year mark is crossed. As historians assess and study Modern Architecture, we provide ever more precise descriptions and terms to describe the sub-styles and variations within the large umbrella term, “Modern.” As in taxonomy, which classifies and categorizes living organisms, we can recognize and assign groups of similar resources together for study.

Modern architecture had its roots after World War I as part of an egalitarian movement. The new architecture looked to industrial materials and processes to replace painstaking handwork; a horizontal proportion and deliberate embrace of the ground plane as opposed to a formal, vertical building proportion; and the rejection of ornamentation.

A Mid-Century Residential Survey in the City of Olympia

PMA has been working on a Mid-Century Residential survey in the City of Olympia. The date of construction for resources surveyed is limited to a two-decade span from 1945 to 1965, and the building type is limited to single-family residential. Surprisingly, there are more individual sub-styles found in this survey than were identified in a more broadly focused survey, our 2013 Mid-Century non-residential survey in St Louis, MO. The reason for this is that the tight focus of study allows for classification based on more specific characteristics.
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The St. Louis survey identified resources constructed from 1945 to 1975 as being either Moderne, Brutalist, International Style, New Formalist, Neo-Expressionist, or simply “Modern Movement” if the style could not be placed in any sub-style. A few had mixed characteristics. The wide variety of building types in the survey, including churches, high-rise towers, and industrial buildings, kept style classifications necessarily broad. Local variations of styles were observed and identified, but were not given their own identifying style name. A future regional survey of the same time period could invite more stylistic classification, if there were enough similar resources to compare.

The Olympia Mid-Century Residential survey covers approximately 400 single-family homes. The variations in style identified might be described in an overview as belonging to one of three “families.” Transitional Modern includes Stripped Classical, Minimal Traditional, and World War II-Era Cottage styles. The second group is Ranch style, which covers a broad range of sub-styles and forms, including Split-Level or Split-Entry Ranch; Contemporary Ranch; Storybook Ranch; and Colonial or Early American Ranch. The last group is a Neo-Expressionist collection of styles that were primarily constructed starting about 1965. These styles include A-Frame, Shed, Geodesic Dome, neo-Futurist, Pavilion, and other eclectic explorations and celebrations of building technology and structure. While none of these Neo-Expressionist styles were identified in the Olympia Mid-Century Residential survey, PMA expects at least one of these (Shed style) to be identified in urban Olympia if the time period studied is extended beyond 1965. Also, many of these styles were constructed in more rural areas than the concentrated Mid-Century neighborhoods examined in the survey. It is possible that Neo-Expressionist residences will come to light with further survey and exploration.

Min-Traditional-city-of-olympia-survey-pmapdxThe Olympia survey classified the first grouping of styles as those that are transitional. Transitional Modern styles have some elements of Modern and some elements of more traditional architecture. Windows might be vertically-oriented, double-hung wood windows (traditional) rather than having horizontal proportions (Modern). A roof might be a moderate pitch, with minimal overhangs (traditional), rather than a shallow pitch with outwardly-extending gables (Modern). In Olympia, 37% of the houses surveyed were Modern Minimal Traditional, by far the most prevalent Transitional Modern style.

Ranch-city-of-olympia-survey-pmapdxRanch style architecture is the style that architecture critics have generally spurned, since houses were often constructed by contractors without architect’s involvement. Ranch buildings are broad, one-story, and horizontal in overall proportion. They have an attached garage which faces the street and is part of the overall form of the house, and almost always a large picture window facing the street as well. Cladding is used to accentuate the horizontal lines of the house, so there is often a change in material at the lower part of the front façade- brick veneer was a popular choice. Many of the sub-styles of Ranch architecture are “styled” Ranch houses, meaning that elements from another style of architecture were placed on a Ranch form building. One example is Storybook Ranch, which uses “gingerbread” trim, dormers or a cross-gable, and sometimes diamond-pane windows. Are these decorated sub-styles still part of the canon of Modern Architecture? In many ways, they are more Post-Modern than Modern, but that distinction is worthy of an involved discussion of its own.

Split-level-city-of-olympia-survey-pmapdxThe Olympia Mid-Century Residential survey found over half the resources surveyed to be Ranch or variants of Ranch style. 31% of the surveyed homes were identified as simply Ranch, with another 11% Early Ranch, 9% Contemporary Ranch, 4% Split-Level or Split-Entry, and 4% one of the “Styled” Ranch variations. Sheer numbers alone remind us that the Ranch is deserving of study and shows us how the majority of middle-class Americans lived. As Alan Hess writes in his book Ranch House,

“Most critics overlooked or ignored the prototypical Ranch house architecture, the variety of its manifestations, the social complexity of its neighborhoods, and the tract Ranch’s often innovative mass-construction methods. To most critics living in traditional cities with little contact with the conditions, desires, and apparent satisfactions of middle-class suburban life, the suburbs were a foreign land.”

The more we study these styles of Modern residential architecture, the more they may be appreciated, celebrated, and well-maintained. And if you live in or grew up in a Ranch style house, it is now potentially historic.
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Written by Kristen Minor, Preservation Planner. For additional MCM survey projects, please visit our STL Modern Non-Residential Survey project.

Veterans Memorial Coliseum: Portland’s Architectural Jewel

Historic Aerial of Memorial ColiseumPresently, the City of Portland awarded a contract for Spectator Facilities Construction Project Management Services for a yet unnamed Veterans Memorial Coliseum project. The city is preparing for potential renovation scenarios. The uncertain future of the Coliseum feels like déjà vu.

Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and built between 1960 and 1961, is a premier jewel of International Style modernism in the city. The structure consists of glass and aluminum, a non-load-bearing curtain wall cube with a central ovular concrete seating area. It is a true engineering and architectural masterpiece that offers uninterrupted panoramic views of Portland from the seating area. The Veterans Memorial Coliseum is also a war memorial, featuring exterior sunken black granite walls inscribed with the names of veterans in gold paint.

At its completion it was the largest multipurpose facility in the Pacific Northwest. And a significant structure within the larger urban planning Rose Quarter Development project. In 2009 the city of Portland proposed to demolish the Coliseum to make way for a new sports facility. The greater community of Portland, including architectural preservationists and historians, successfully applied for National Register of Historic Places status for the building. In 2011 it was placed in the National Register.

Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum is a phenomenal renovation opportunity from both historic and economic perspectives.
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Despite being listed in the National Register, built during an era of urban and planning reform that advocated for the latest in building technologies, and designed by one of our countries leading modernist firms, many challenge its architectural value. The Coliseum shows the remarkable and collaborative approach towards design and construction by SOM. It is also the only arena world-wide with a 360-degree panoramic view from the seating area. Consider the inability to experience this modern architectural marvel and war memorial firsthand. Simply put, the demolition of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum would be a loss to the city.

Concerns regarding its deferred maintenance and historic materials are often attached to the illogical demolition conclusion because the building does not meet specific 2014 building codes. It is possible to integrate new building technologies while retaining the building’s exterior and interior character defining features. Unfortunately, significant modernist architecture designed by influential architects in the 1950s-1970s have not been regarded with proper facility maintenance. Deferred maintenance has its price. Regardless of building age, if a structure is not properly maintained it will fall into disrepair. Thankfully, Portland has a robust AEC industry dedicated to solving design challenges.

As a city, Portland boast’s its commitment to living green and investing in sustainable practices throughout the greater community. The renovation of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum is exactly the type of project that would highlight our city’s commitment to sustainability. There is no greener option than renovating and reusing existing architectural resources. This renovation would also economically benefit the city by boosting investment around the Rose Quarter area. Potentially extending and overlapping with the renewed development interest in the Lloyd District. Portland could have two premier sports facilities, doubling the city’s ability to provide world-class sports and entertainment events. It is a renovation project with long term urban renewal benefits.
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Veterans Memorial Coliseum is an internationally recognized architectural masterpiece. Its architectural legacy is deeply intertwined within Portland’s socio-economic and cultural heritages. Portland must learn from the recent demolitions of modernist architectural marvels like Prentice Women’s Hospital, several Paul Rudolph buildings, and the forthcoming Astrodome. Threats to our modern architecture is a threat to our architectural heritage. It is time to celebrate the last fifty years of Portland’s international jewel with a thoughtful renovation that looks ahead to the city’s next fifty years of architectural history.

Written by Kate Kearney, Marketing Coordinator