Preservation in Portland
by Brian Libby
The recent threat of demolition to Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon, one of the city's most visible architectural landmarks, galvanized local architects and historic preservation advocates. But the city's record on historic preservation, in terms of both involvement and actually preserving buildings, is spotty.
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Like many other cities, Portland can count a number of well-preserved historic buildings, such as remaining examples of early-20th-century cast-iron buildings along the riverfront and Victorian houses from the late 19th century. But recent losses bring the ongoing threats to the city's historic fabric into sharp relief. And in recent years, the Rose City has also seen its preservation laws threatened by an ongoing property rights movement that has also attacked urban growth boundaries and other urban planning measures.
"More and more, as a city needs to grow dense, there's more pressure on historic buildings and districts," observes Paul Falsetto, an architect with Carleton Hart Architecture in Portland and the chair of AIA Portland's Historic Resources Committee. "Some folks would say things have gotten worse [in Portland]. I tend to think there've been some improvements, but constant pressure."
Lost to History
The last few years have seen some of Portland's most significant historic buildings reduced to rubble. These buildings represented a range of public and private realms, from prominent civic architecture to 20th-century kitsch.
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