Alvar Aalto: Why I dig Architecture: Mt. Angel Library

September 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

I visited Mt Angel, Oregon with a sole purpose.


See a piece of architecture that was not set in a sprawling metropolis, not designed for a merchant tycoon, and that required some work to get to.


Mt. Angel library is part of the Mr. Angel Monastery, completed in1970  by Alvaar Aalto,  settles quietly into a hillside overlooking the beautiful Oregon farming community just south of Portland. The history of the library isn’t all that interesting – the abbey needed a new library and the benefactors thought Aalto a great architect to request a design from and needed a new one.  Aalto was asked and he accepted – simple. He visited the site maybe twice, probably only after construction.

What resulted was the first time I found peace from “architecture”, not from an idea or from a long night of work, or a particular solution  – but from being inside a well designed building.  Now, the extent I knew of architecture at that time was –  Frank Lloyd Wright was really important and that nobody is an architect anymore. The layout is in a flowering shell shape that feels like a fluid gesture of someone with vision and the confidence of the technical.  The consistent north light comes from the incisions in the ceiling, and come streaming down  to the multiple floors of tiered shelves and reading booths.

It was what a library should be, and what architecture should strive for.  I learned that day the gesture of the line can become something much more important than what the word embodies, and with some patience and persistence it can become something remarkable. Unlike anything I had encountered, it was planned for a result in mind and that result was reached. There was no criticism deserved, it was honest about what the library needed and delivered. And that is why I dig Architecture (or mostly).


Don Younger: Publican

February 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

My brother-in-law sent me a quick email late last week and the title read “Horse Brass”. Almost as soon as I read the subject I knew Don had died, and the email confirmed this bitter pill.

If there was anything about Portland that I feel I still take with me is my time working at the Horse Brass Pub on Belmont, and my few exchanges with the (in)famous owner Don. I had to really hassle Don to even get that job, starting one night a week and feeling mostly like a toddler amidst these avid beer connoisseurs. But, by the end of those years, I had picked up a few things – namely a sense of place in Portland. Don was a great guy for his employees, his patrons, and Portland. Ask anyone in that place and the first thing they’ll say is how they met Don and how that exchange led them to the Horse Brass.

I still always go to the Brass when I’m back in Portland, always have to check back in. Like a good pair of shoes, it never grows uncomfortable. I don’t know many of the faces there anymore, but that will always be. The newly initiated mix with the regulars, the new barbacks finally get remembered by Arthur, and the Horse Brass changes – evolves.  Just like it changed after the smoking ban. Just like it will change after January 31st.

There are a ton of people writing about how much Don meant to the Portland craft beer scene, how much he meant to beer in America. But really, the relationships he built with the workers and patrons of the Horse Brass will probably lead them to drink longer and harder after his passing.

Interview at Celebrator

Brass Tacks – Don Younger

The Horse Brass

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