Thursday, March 22, 2012

moments that change a life

The sweet man in my life who asked me to marry him twenty years ago was the catalyst for one of those life changing moments.   That single event set off waves of change that would effect every aspect of who I was and who I would become.  I now live in Portland with a family of my own and am surrounded by a whole new set of friends and colleagues.  And while my interest in design has never wavered, it has been altered by these changes.
In my twenties I was working on the East Coast and was obsessed with commercial design, large scale projects, understanding how things went together, the details of making it work, and convincing others my ideas were great.  In my thirties, my husband and I moved to the West Coast to begin a new adventure. (Intimate and nostalgic, Portland has a unique culture which translates into every facet of living and working here.) My architectural projects were mid-sized commercial and included some smaller scale interiors and residential.  I started a family and it grew and grew.  I guess there is something in the water here....there is a lot of water here.  Finally, I outgrew my full time career and grew into raising a family along side design.  My projects shifted towards residential work exclusively now that I am in my forties.  Lately I am thinking about design again more and more.  It is such a pleasure to dream of beautiful create something or to turn something old into something new - that is so rewarding. 
I am currently working on a remodel for a home that was built in the 40’s.   It is a ranch with a low-hipped Japanese style roof line.   It has a very typical northwestern flavor that was developed here by Pietro Belluschi (son of an Italian immigrant) who lived and worked in Portland.  Belluschi later became the Dean of MIT, Boston.   When I first moved here all of the the other young designers were very taken with Belluschi’s designs.  I did not quite understand the love affair when I arrived but now I am smitten. The homes are simple, with low roof lines and overhanging eaves.  There are large windows that run floor to ceiling.  Walls and ceilings are sometimes covered with clear cedar siding to add warmth to a room that looks out to the cold but beautiful pacific ocean with it’s rocky coastline.  The exterior may have a vertical board and batten siding that is left unpainted so it’s color fades with time like the shingle homes that you see along Cape Cod.  Sometimes there are porches and or walkways that reach out to the landscape and nestle into the old growth forests that are everywhere here.

This home above is the Kerr House that is located in Gearhart, Oregon by the sea.  It was commissioned in the 40’s by a retired wealthy business man in his 80’s.  The side of the home that faced the ocean had a long band of vertical windows. The vertical windows are in contrast to the long horizontal flow of the roof line and the deep overhanging eaves. Belluschi’s work will be exhibited this May at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland.
I ran across this image below, the other day, of an exhibit that is currently in Portland featuring the work of William Wurster. 

Wurster was a famous West Coast architect and teacher at the University of California, Berkeley and at MIT, that practiced in and around San Francisco. His work has this unassuming quality that just feels right in its environment. There are huge window walls of glass that open out to the garden, pulling your attention to the outdoors in a thoughtful and serene manner.  You can see more of his work exhibited by the Architecture Foundation of Oregon 2012 event ‘Frames for Living’ March 22 through April 28th at the White Stag Building on Couch Street.

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