World Architecture Day is celebrated on the first Monday of October, a tradition that started in 1985 to encourage people “to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter,” according to organizers with the International Union of Architects.
The day, intentional set to correspond with the United Nation’s World Habitat Day, also intends to emphasize people’s collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat, say organizers.
The theme of World Architecture Day 2021, which takes place Monday, Oct. 4, is “Clean environment for a healthy world.” The focus is to address housing, public spaces and global environmental issues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
It seems fitting on World Architecture Day to reminisce about the classic and modern styles that changed Oregon.
From farmhouse and modern, to floating and tiny homes, here are the residential styles that made the most impact on how Oregonians are living today.
Century-old farmhouses made the most of timber, brick and other natural materials, whether collected nearby or brought by railcar in a kit. New homes borrow classic farmhouse characteristics of shiplap siding and the invented idea of interior barn doors.
Old farmhouses didn’t have towering fireplaces in giant great rooms either, but they did have kitchens large enough for everyone to gather near apron sinks and long counters, and a strong connection to the outdoors.
Today, wraparound porches are optional on new homes built on former fields and pastures.
Most people envision a Victorian-era house as a towering dwelling with bay windows, pointy roofs and a porch supported by columns that rise up toward fish-scale wood siding and other architectural adornments.
The multilevel homes are typically painted several colors to draw out the details, except in the “Scooby-Doo” Penny Black House in Portland Heights, which designer Stewart Horner dressed, top to bottom, in the color of soot.
Portland lost many structures built during the Victorian era, from 1837 to 1901 when Queen Victoria reigned over the United Kingdom. But century-old buildings still survive in styles we know as Queen Anne, Italianate and Eastlake Stick, among others.
A spacious, new form of multifamily dwellings, called “apartment houses,” showed up in Portland a year before the city’s biggest promotional campaign, the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition.
Millions of people lured by the months-long fair saw the newly spruced-up town and many decided to stay, causing an unprecedented need for housing.
Unlike flats or hotels, these long-term rentals had a parlor, kitchen and bathroom, and boasted the East Coast idea of luxury living in a classically designed building.
Women couldn’t vote yet but they were the first to sign leases to rent out apartments. A few even had the resources to build them.
Portland’s signature home style has to be the Craftsman, inspired by the anti-industrial Arts and Crafts movement and introduced for the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition.
The population explosion that followed the successful fair cemented demand for the sturdy dwellings fronted by covered porches and substantial columns.
Early developers trying to sell lots in Northwest Portland’s Willamette Heights hired architect Emil Schacht to design “modern” spec houses. A 1904 Oregonian story said a then-revolutionary Craftsman cost about $2,500 to build. Bungalow kits were $1,000.
Architects Pietro Belluschi and John Yeon are considered the pillars of Northwest Regional style, but there are others who progressed Frank Lloyd Wright’s principles of building to blend with the environment, to live with nature, not from it.
They employed native wood, rough stone and glass to achieve elegance.
Belluschi described his work as being freed from “artificial standards,” “architectural pretense” and “superficial culture.”
There’s a lot to love about the common ranch-style house. Most of the horizontal, ground-hugging ramblers built for middle-class families in the 1950s and 1960s boom years had hardwood floors, brick fireplaces and layouts that were easy to expand into the big, grassy backyard.
Nine out of 10 homes built for decades after WWII were a version of the architectural style inspired by California’s early haciendas. Suburban streets were dotted with single-story, split-level or daylight ranch-style houses, some with a breezeway to the carport or garage; all without fussy porches and patios to allow faster access to the outdoors.
Although architecture snobs sneer at the “granny ranch” or deride one as “just another ranchburger,” the appeal of a ranch reigns because it’s adaptable.
“Mad Men” dwellings captured the post-WWII era’s optimism and embraced revolutionary living with glass walls, seemingly invisible indoor-outdoor boundaries and Jet Age-styling.
The concept of a minimum of walls between communal spaces, like the kitchen and dining room, was not common a half century ago, but prefigured how people would increasingly want to live, said journalist and Portland Architecture blogger Brian Libby.
Unlike most ranch-style houses, living rooms in developers’ Joseph Eichler and Robert Rummer modern tract homes were radically oriented toward the backyard. The coveted dwellings have no porch or picture window offering a hint of what’s inside, like a see-through interior atrium.
The 1970 Portland Plaza residential tower kickstarted the idea of living in a luxury high-rise downtown. The imposing triangular building rose during a time of nerve-wracking inflation and was given the nickname Norelco because the roof resembles the electric razor with three round shaving heads.
Even today, the glass-and-aluminum landmark makes a cool or cold first impression. The building and grounds consume the entire block across from Keller Park and its handsome fountain, but the pricey Portland Plaza is not alone.
Towers rose and sold quickly until the 2008 Great Recession. Now, after the economic rebound, it’s not uncommon for downtown condos to have homeowners’ association fees that are $1,000 a month or higher.
People who work on the waves were the first to want a front-row view of the water. As the allure of an ocean getaway set in, original quaint cottages got knocked down like sand castles to make way for trophy structures.
A log mansion in Gold Beach, reminiscent of the Gilded Age’s Adirondack Great Camps, was once for sale at $10,995,000. No buyer appeared so the oceanfront estate, built in 2010 on 28 acres at 35400 Highway 101, lingered on the market. Now, it’s for sale at $11,900,000.
The helipad is still included.
There are romanticized versions of the origins of Portland’s Pearl District’s name. But no one disputes that developers eyed the Northwest Industrial Triangle’s railroad yards and aging factories, and created luxury condos between worn brick walls and underneath warehouse-high ceilings.
The new homes sold for $100,000 or so in the district’s early years of the late 1980s and ‘90s. Now, a one-bedroom has an asking price close to $1 million.
An Oregonian story around that time referred to the Pearl’s reincarnation as a place that “sparks with fresh energy as its residents incubate a new form of high-comfort urban life.”
“Keep Portland Weird” is an overused slogan. But it certainly relates to some of the unusual dwellings in the city and beyond. Churches have been converted into residences, pools are shaped like hearts and circular structures abound.
One-of-a-kind abodes are on land, sea and air. Take the Hobbit Home’s secret passageways through nine odd domes. Feel the disco vibe at the Aqua Star floating mansion and wander from the cockpit to the wing of the Boeing 727-200 airplane home where Bruce Campbell, an electrical engineer, not the actor, has lived for two decades after parking it among Douglas fir trees in Hillsboro.
A wide range of dwellings can be called a tiny house. That is, almost anything with a roof, walls and less than 400 square feet of living space.
A garden shed kit sold on Amazon went viral when promoted as a tiny house.
People do live comfortably in shed-size spaces. Tiny house pioneer and author Dee Williams of PAD (Portland Alternative Dwellings) became famous for living for a decade with her dog in a handmade home with 86 square feet of space.
At conferences around the world, Williams would point to a full-size bed sheet laying before her. “That’s my life-size floor plan,” she said. “Take a tour.”
She has since downsized to 56 square feet. No wonder Portland is considered a tiny house epicenter.
As of Aug. 1, Portland homeowners can legally have two small dwellings sharing a residential city lot with their existing house.
A self-contained home can be created by adding an apartment wing to the original house, carving out space from spare rooms inside the residence or converting an unfinished basement or structurally sound garage into new living quarters with a kitchen sink and shower.
The most common compact home, or accessory dwelling unit (ADU), is a standalone, stick-framed structure on a foundation.
Often, when homeowners contact the City of Portland to replace a drafty, old garage with a new structure, they’re encouraged to put a self-contained dwelling on top.
The most popular reason to build: People love their neighborhood or low mortgage, and don’t want to move but they need more space – a guest cottage or in-law flat – or they want to rent out an apartment for added income, says Kol Peterson, a Portland-based small housing advocate and educator who has been involved in ADUs for decades.
— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072