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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Packin' 'em in

Remember the detached single-family home? The City of Portland's definitely getting out of that mode. Nowadays it's all about density -- between the city commissioners' ears, especially.

Anyway, if we're hellbent on building cigar boxes for people to live in, they might as well be groovy-looking, right? And so the city has commissioned a competition among various designs for "courtyard living." We all get a chance to marvel at the new spin on what in the 20th Century we used to call "the projects," and even vote for our favorite looks on line.

The competition website is fairly confusing, referring to various "winners" as if the contest were already over. But apparently, that's just the competition before a panel of distinguished judges. The public vote is still very much on, open until the 28th of the month. And there are couple of open houses scheduled for next week, at which the designs will be displayed in a single real-world space.

The entries are here -- you vote here. If those links don't work, you can start here and see if you can find your way.

There are some real beauties in there. Take the "earth box," six "family" units on 8500 square feet. Or perhaps this moonscape would be more to your taste. And what's not to like about a "sleeping pod"?

Interestingly, the folks out east of 82nd Avenue are getting a separate open house, and apparently designs of their own. How will the courtyard projects out that way differ from those in the rest of town? Thicker bulletproofing, perhaps?

Comments (29)

Haven't swung by the that particular .org as of yet, on the way out the door. Anything like the density projects Stalin put up in his day? Old Joe had seperate private access to every apartment for government operatives... made for a "sustainable" motherstate don't you know. Do the renderings show an antenna on top (next to a windmill?) that might beam in GPS info from non-conformists with automobiles. Let's see, with the antenna, we could monitor cell phone use in these cathedrals of density, apply a fee and offset the developer abatements for these City Hall erections (...oops, sorry). We have the linchpin! Actually, we have the technology! I sometimes mix my 4th Av. buzzwords. Not 4th? What? Oh well, that place in Portland where Goodness Dwells.

Interesting floorplans on the "moonscape" link. Interesting in that they don't appear to have kitchens...

My money's on Peter Keating to win this one. Although this design is quite different from his usual work.

Wow, what a shock. Lots of smilin' mostly white face walking in front of boxes. What no (or a bare min) of off-street parking? I am surprised that CoP would even endorse something like this!

Think I'll vote for the project with best sight lines to watch for intruders. What really gets me is that residences (a place of escape) can be high density, however industrial/commercial property must be low density, which I don't get besides the std anti-biz attitude.

I gotta tell you, Jack, your critiques of the various land use planner schemes now kinda clangs off rim since you were so vocal supporting Measure 49, which simply re-empowered and emboldened them.


The sleeping pod "allows one to return to the womb," and also comes with a device allowing one to kill one's father.

When I put a layer of pea gravel in my back yard a few weeks ago, I never even considered the possibility that I was simultaneously "maximizing chi." I am definitely voting for the sleeping pod, on the basis of sheer entertainment.

A major blunder with all of these and many designs in this region over the past decades is the eaveless apporoach.

This isn't the desert SW. Exposing exterior finishes to the wet elements in the NW leads to all sorts of mold, mildew, slime, rot and just plain ugly soon after the completion photo opps.

How many of you have seen recent projects turn ugly with algea, leaching, moldy ugly followed by tarps and major repairs?

It's friggin insanity to have such widespread ingoring or our climate.
The simple use of adequate eaves, overhangs and other protections would make much more sense yet they are routinely excluded as if they aren't that important.
Not so smart.

You know, I'm all for density. But looking at some of the best "high-density" cities in North America, NYC, SF, Vancouver BC, and I don't see a lot of "sleeping pods" and "courtyards".

Why is the simple solution never tried.

what saddens me is that, given the continuous stream of graduating designers and the sheer overabundance of licensed architects clogging the streets, these represent the best we can do. still, one or two contain ideas worth exploring.

"sleeping pods"? good grief. some day, i hope to dance on the cold ashes of the burned-out, arse-contemplating, masturbatory pretentiousness of the postmodernist ethic.

come, children, let us decorate the box.

"Why is the simple solution never tried."

How is this a solution and a solution to what?

Why is this stuff so easily accepted as a solution to something?

Why do we need any "solution" when we've been the model for the nation in planning for 30 years?

What?, the planning really sucks but the establishment who perpetrates it doesn't want to admit it because they think more of the same will eventually ????? something?

Ok here is how this works. A bunch of Architects and designers from all over the world send in futuristic home designs to the contest. Randy's minions then divide them into three categories. A group of distinguished local judges (architects) name one group of winners. A group of distiguished people (the public) vote on a second set of winners. And finally a group of distinguished home builders sort out a group that can actually be built under today's code.

What you are seeing now is the second "public vote" group. And since Randy is running for re-election he sets up a second contest in East Portland because heaven forbid you chi chi inner city types should have to associate your self with the great unwashed.

Greg C

You know I never thought I would ever equate inner city with rich and outer ring with poor. I guess the times they are a changing. At least in Portland anyway.

There are three "smart growth" condos going up in a four block radius in Hollywood right now. Can't wait for the increased congestion when all those folks move in with their BMW's.

By the way I forgot to mention the best part of all this. These are "courtyard living" designs. Under the courtyard living concept several families live in houses facing a central courtyard and thus become sort of an extended family. This supposedly cures the dreadful surbuban home syndrone where the houses all face the street with garages and thus none of us know who our neighbors our. If you look closely at the drawings you will see scenes of happy people sharing their lives together in the contral shared "front yard".

Greg C

Mr. Lister,

as a daily Hollywood pedestrian commuter, I have the same fears with regards to insane car traffice hereabouts. But that Whole Foods monstrosity (which is probably one of the condo developments you were referring to) is what is really going to bump up the number of steel vehicle trips around 43rd and Sandy. Welcome the cut-through vehicle traffic to the side streets, and keep the kids indoors.

General Burnside:

I think you are right about that.

I've been eye balling the big steel girder monster going up around Washington Mutual. I can't figure it out. It almost looks like the lower levels are going to be a parking garage. Do you know what's up with that one?

These are horrible.
No privacy,constant contact with your neighbors not to mention your immediate family. What about those times where you just want silence? I can hear the echos of children screaming as they play in the courtyard. YOW!
I would feel like a trapped rat.
Gee wilikers (sp?) there must be a better way than this.

Kathe has it right. It's just a matter of time before condo buyers will want to move back to to a detached home.


There is a parking garage involved, not sure how many levels, along with condos and the grocery store (and perhaps some other steet-level retail?).

So glad we live in a nice split level home on 10,000 square foot lot with a large and very private back yard. I grew up in San Francisco, where detached homes are a rarity. In fact, my last home in San Francisco was a rowhouse in Miraloma Park.
I guess what angers me is that most of what they pass off as a rowhouse in PDX is CRAP in comparison to what I used to own - which was at least 30 years old. Most rowhouses in SF are only 20-30 feet wide, but usually have a driveway deep enough to park one or more cars off the street (and not blocking the sidewalk), a tunnel type garage that can usually hold two vehicles, and a skinny fenced backyard that typically extends at least 40+ feet from the rear of the house.
Compare that to many places that have a "backyard" rarely over 10-12 feet deep, a single car garage, and virtually no place to park for guests.

Love the Fountainhead reference John.

Jack, I like a lot of what you post, but at times your curmudgeonliness gets the best of you, and this is one of those times.

First, this is a DESIGN CONCEPT competition. Are there way out ideas in there? Of course there are! Have you ever checked out an auto show? Most of the concept vehicles never make it to market, but this is how new automotive concepts develop.

Second, comparisons to the urban slum projects of the 60s? Stalinesque facades? Please--tell me which one, of ANY, of those designs bears even the dimmest resemblance to Cabrini Green or the Robert Taylor homes.

Dense living may not be your ball of wax, but clearly a lot of people like it. We might as well have it look good, right?

I've seen wonderful examples of courtyard living that I'd be pleased to move into. If you could give me a development like the townhomes located right across from Sellwood Middle School, with a courtyard with walking and play areas (therefore likely to attract lots of families), I'd love it.

And to Greg C: You know I never thought I would ever equate inner city with rich and outer ring with poor. I guess the times they are a changing. At least in Portland anyway.

You are 25 years behind the times.

The Chicago Loop (check out Printer's Row), Boston, Manhattan, Austin TX, San Fran, St Paul MN, Vancouver BC, Montreal, and most cities in Europe have long been inner city=wealth and outer ring=less wealthy.

Many American cities are simply behind on this curve but pick most any city where you'd like to live, and it's probably moved well along this path in the last 25 years.

but clearly a lot of people like

My a*s. They can't afford anything better, or they'd be out of those projects in a New York second. There are some decent ones being built, but 90 percent are not places any family would want to live. Once you see who your neighbors are in places like these, you won't be letting your kids frolic in the green, sustainable courtyard.

Most of the concept vehicles never make it to market, but this is how new automotive concepts develop.

actually, no--concept cars rarely go into production. they're fantasy affairs.

You are 25 years behind the times.

not true. it's still the norm right now for suburbs and out urban areas to me wealthier than the inner city. this was a long transition from where cities contained the wealth. is it shifting back? in some places. is it the norm? no.

First, this is a DESIGN CONCEPT competition. Are there way out ideas in there? Of course there are!

i wouldn't call them "way out." i'd call them "mediocre" and "superficial."

We lived in a courtyard apartment in another state for a year--twelve units on two floors. The neighborliness was really sweet--we ran into each other much more often than we would have and got to have little chats. But the noise transmission was awful, especially when the windows were open and the guy across the courtyard had a new girlfriend.

Paul G.: I guess all those lower income suburbs like Burlingame, San Mateo, Hillsboro, Westchester County, and most of seaboard Connecticut are all really awful places aren't they?

Dave A., I almost got stabbed by a Mexican in Hillsboro, Oregon a couple months ago. It really is an awful place.

Jack once again thinks I am talking about the projects, even though I mentioned "Printers Row" in Chicago. Far from the projects, this inner loop developments goes for 500,000-1,000,000 per unit. And there are lots of families.

Dave A., sure, there are wealthy suburbs. Are you denying that there are extremely expensive inner city areas in the cities I mentioned?

eco, I didn't say wealthy inner cities are the "norm". Just that there are a lot more places than Portland that have inner city revivals, and that the MOST inner ring in the cities I mentioned IS more pricey than the "near" outer ring (not the 'burbs).

In fact, you'd have to be hrain dead not to see that the revival of the inner American city is one of the major changes we've witnessed in the last 20 years.


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