In my travels I enjoy seeking out especially beautiful streets lined with artful buildings filled with pedestrians and little cafes and shops. In North America they can be hard to find since that’s really not our strong suit. We tend to build generic functional tract homes and shopping centers that provide people with “what regular folks want at a price they can afford” as every developer will tell you. But I’m equally drawn to the train wreck neighborhoods and hideous structures that somehow manage to take the mundane to a whole new level. So far this cluster of apartments beat out the stiff competition for the title of, “The Ugliest Building in Portland”.
I saw this place and instantly got a flashback to my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Herschman circa 1976. “Take out a piece of paper. Fold it in half. Now number the columns.” She liked exercises where we had to observe something and then write down all the words and phrases that could describe the subject at hand. This building would require several sheets of paper.
This is Portland. Gray, rainy Portland. Why no windows? The large corner lot has a full southern and eastern exposure. And where’s the entrance to the building? Or any of the individual units? The building presents its lifeless facades to the neighborhood as if to insulate itself from the outside world. Why limit the fenced-in patios, such as they are, to just six miserly feet when they could have been extended out to ten or twelve to give the unfortunate inhabitants at least a little relief from their rabbit hutches? Was the builder tasked with punishing the poor bastards who live here? No amount of fresh paint or landscaping can save this place.
A close runner up for the Ugly Prize might be the church diagonally across the street. A modest church doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to have good proportions, natural light, and sense of dignity befitting worship, celebration, and mourning. This place looks like a failed Howard Johnson’s at an out-of-fashion ski resort. And what’s with the mismatched square little shrubbery? It looks like poor dentistry and gum disease. I can’t imagine the sorry occupants of the neighboring apartments finding any spiritual uplift in this place – and they surely need it.
Come on people. You can do better than this. You’re not even trying.