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Michael Graves Shower

The Problem Seems To Be Growing


Oregon boomers, along with anyone with a tile shower, know this problem.

The same goes for anyone in Portland with a house painted white.

Stuff grows all over. If you don’t clean it up, it keeps growing.

Tile is a special problem. Sure, it looks pretty at first. Then the grout fails, or discolors, and you’ve got a mess.

The Michael Graves designed Portland Building is turning into a mess.

Like a badly aging movie star, it looks good from a distance, or in fuzzy focus.

Get too close and all the warts and moles have their day.

Who wants that close-up? Anyone walking by can’t help it.

It’ll get worse before it gets better.



The Creator’s Words

“While any architectural language, to be built, will always exist within the technical realm, it is important to keep the technical expression parallel to an equal and complementary expression of ritual and symbol. It could be argued that the Modern Movement did this, that as well as its internal language, it expressed the symbol of the machine, and therefore practiced cultural symbolism. But in this case, the machine is retroactive, for the machine itself is a utility. So this symbol is not an external allusion, but rather a second, internalized reading. A significant architecture must incorporate both internal and external expressions. The external language, which engages inventions of culture at large, is rooted in a figurative, associational and anthropomorphic attitude.”

— Michael Graves. from Michael Graves. Michael Graves: Buildings and Projects 1966-1981. p.11.

If Michael Graves is The Creator, is God, then baby boomers around the world have a problem since they all consider Eric Clapton God.

Even Slowhand knows a problem when he sees it. Portland should consult Mr. Graves, then hire Clapton to play God of the Power Washer on the Portland Building.

(Extra points today for anyone willing to interpret The Creator’s Words from above. Here’s my take: Graves won a design competition and sold Portland on his work. The locals didn’t want to come off as yokels so they nodded agreement to the pitch he made.)

What we know for sure is mold and moss are more a part of Northwest Style than Graves ‘cultural symbolism.’

A clean exterior is an allusion to an organized expression. The only machine reference we need is a crew of careful scrubbers applying spit and polish.

If we want to see native Oregon flora and fauna, we’ll go to Forest Park. NW boomers know the way.

Is there another public building of note with such degradation?


About David Gillaspie
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