|PGE Cable Crossing sign, SE waterfront, Portland|
|"Beauty Is Priceless" graffiti, SE waterfront|
|grinning cat graffiti, SE waterfront|
|blue robot sign, SE waterfront, Portland|
|SW Portland winter riverfront at dusk|
|southbound "K" Line train, Portland|
|rusted tree grate|
|sign of gentrification, Taylor Electric Supply, Inc., southeast Portland|
|security fence, southeast Portland|
|turkey rising (charred beam, rusty bolts)|
|eye, ear, vine|
|window shards at dusk|
My favorite post-apocalyptic photoshoot location in Portland (aka the burned-out Taylor Electric Supply building) is set to be torn down in 2014 to make way for yet another faux-industrial, eco-office building at 240 SE Clay. Beauty doesn't just fade with time—it gets clawed up by bulldozers.
So maybe there wasn't much of a building left to save in this case, this spray-painted shell left standing after a 2006 fire. But what about a city honoring found artistic space? What about beauty-in-decay? What about retrofitting more of the older brick-and-mortar buildings around town, rather than razing them to the ground? I'm sick of the word "eyesore" in this context and the number-cruncher belief that the "value of an existing structure" isn't high enough to warrant "bringing a space up to code," as if the capitalist market alone should pass judgment on the value of a city's material history.
What if culture hasn't caught up to history? What if, like me, you live within a culture possessing the overarching mindset of a teenager continually seeking The New, headsets on, smartphones in hand, and hoodies up (like horse blinders)? Because while you can easily sell off an old building for parts, like vultures tearing into a carcass, you can't build old. That's why Americans of a certain socioeconomic class have long tended to vacation in Europe (just read any Henry James, Fitzgerald, or Hemingway novel): for the ambiance. Europeans know old—and it isn't measured in decades but centuries and millenia.
Hasn't everyone figured out yet that repurposed buildings with even a smidgen of history are the ultimate in hip? Anyone been inside the Ford Building lately? Landlords can charge a fortune for rehabbed industrial-loft properties. But most Americans wouldn't know either history or beauty if it fell on top of them like a pile of bricks.