Monday, September 25, 2006

Old and New


Here’s a little history lesson, and as you probably well know, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

So there is this big deal to preserve and enhance the history in Astoria. So one might ask if this means we are going to get a bath house and a whore house on every block like the way it was back in the late 1800’s. Well, no. No such luck. What we will get is a lot of present day code enforcement with the required old-time looks.

OK you might think, but were things better then? They had a lot of flat roofs that leak, oversized windows that weren’t very energy efficient. The worst is the lamp posts that they put down town. Sure they light the street below, but they also shine light outward and upward. So you can see the over-lit skies above Astoria from miles away. Can one still see the stars at night in Astoria?

My next problem with the historic era preservation look is that it in essence eliminates our present. Meaning, if we have to adhere to this look; our contemporary architecture will not be represented in future history. Astoria will be timelessly locked in the cannery town look.

The problem with contemporary building is that it becomes obsolete too quickly. Think of the buildings that were newly erected within your life time and how many of them are no longer here. Think about the Old Safeway, and what about Hauke’s Sentury on the East end of town. Both were relatively young buildings, both obsolete within a few decades and are now gone. Anybody remember the viewing tower at the Port. Did it last two years?

This is the stuff that drives community planners crazy. How do you blend the old with the new and make it look good. My answer is to do it slowly and efficiently. It will be the small steps that will really count. Consider that a lamp shining from a street in Astoria doesn’t need to illuminate the international space station. That would be a good first step. Next, design buildings that are ageless. Finally, don’t be cheap. If your building is going to represent something, make your architectural statement speak volumes about quality and longevity. Not like the eye sore Rent-A-Center or even the Social Security Building.

What’s your favorite building in town and why? Care to comment?

10 Comments:

Anonymous portosan said...

Hello Guy;

Agin, thank you for your thoughtfull blog. I learn a little bit more about the area each week. I really appreciate it.

Today is no exception. You got me thinking about how we are keeping the cannery town look and, well, that will be the history we leave apperently. I agree about bright street lights. Lights are everywhere. The beach has spotlights to where it kindof blinds me and it's ridiculus. Squinting at night so I can see. Light polution. I have read that term elsewhere.

Of course I like the old homes and structures but as for the buildings downtown. I agree the state office building is a joke. There are three that I like and I would like to learn more about.

I have never been in the Astor building but I have heard at street level there are some great interior spaces with marble columns. Again, never seen or been inside that building. I like it though. It is unique but it reminds me of some kind of mormon'ish exterior. Its huge, it's history and it's still standing, I guess that is what I like about it.

I like the Liberty Theater building. When I moved here it was all boarded up and I thought it was a great location and an asset. A few years later the restoration began and I really like that building, all of the great experiences that the space provides for the community. History preserved, it's a good deal.

Lastly, I am fascinated by the US Bank building. The windows on the east side and the crazy suspended lights. Outside it looks like a fortress or a jail. I would like to find out who designed that building and if there is any story there. I would like to learn about how it's laid out inside. I suspect it has some great features.


Thanks for getting me thinking today.

8:21 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I have never been inside the Astor building, but it facinates me as well.
If you ever get a chance to see inside the main hall at the Astoria Elks, do it.
There is nothing charming about the State Building. The blue paint job didn't help it either. Ant there is another example of light polution. They have a flag pole with two lights pointed up at it, where they could have placed lights on a utility pole to shine down on the flag and then onto the building.

I was able to tour the Liberty before all the work was started. Lots of cool stuff there. I went above the theater on the catwalk where the cieling is suspended by cables. I went into all the rooms below the theater, some had dirt floors (under the stage pit), and under the front entrance there is a door that leads to underground Astoria. The room under the entrance housed some old movie signs from when they ran X rated movies there. It was a pretty cool tour. There was also an old dentist office on the second floor that still had the old equipment in it.

I'm curious to see what Dr. Park's new building will look like. He does like employ well known architects. The architect who designed his present building was one of the people involved in designing the World Trade Center.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Astor apartments are low income housing. The owners, I read get a giant tax break from the city.
It is not a well maintained building. I peeked in the lobby one day, yuk.. uck.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

Well, if you should get those bath and whore houses, would you give me a call? I could certainly use a good... bathing :)

12:42 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

The last remaining Bath House is for sale if anyone is interested.

2:10 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

No Syd, just launder those dew rags and you'll freshen right up ; )

5:38 PM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

My three pet peeves:

1. The house the Flavels own on the corner of 15th. How grand it must have been!
2. The abandoned, falling-apart block of 20s strip mall downtown, also owned by the Flavels.
3. That immense beauty of a home on the corner of 17th with the red roof and the black conic cupola. How magnificent could that house be?

I agree with you that we need some decent examples of each period's architecture interspersed with the old. I like the Park Medical Building.

1:28 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Absentee landlords are responsible for most of the eye sores in town.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clatsop College.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha ha ha .. That's a good one.

4:59 PM  

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