Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Architecture is art. And the idea that architecture, like art, is something that can and should be preserved through collecting has taken root (great stories in Departures and Wallpaper).

The architecture and the architect (even not-Franks) matter to some buyers (particularly the ones who can pay serious cash). And when something matters to buyers, real estate agents grab hold. But even on architectureforsale.com, where on-the-market works by architects like Edward Durell Stone and Mies van der Rohe are listed, real estate agents miss the point.

Oregon's solo showing is a Northwest contemporary home in Corvallis designed by Portland architect Howard Glazer. But Washington has three listings -- and the trio works as a perfect example of agents v. architecture.

One listing, for a $1.2 million midcentury modern work tucked into a forest hillside, gets right to the point -- and it's a big point. NBBJ founder Perry Johansen designed the international-style residence in 1965; the front door was done by Portland sculptor Lee Kelly.

The second is for a 1991 McMansion -- "perfect for holiday entertaining!" and "HAS IT ALL!" -- and doesn't nod to design, designer, or architectural significance.

The third, for a Seattle townhouse, also doesn't mention the architect. But unlike the missing McArchitect, this omission's significant. The home is in Hillclimb Court, which was designed by Jim Olson and Rick Sundberg of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects and won a Seattle AIA honor award in 1983. The firm's also done striking work on projects like Delta Shelter, An American Place, and The Brain (in the photo), but that doesn't get a nod. The wall-to-wall carpeting, however, does.

Lame. But who designs a building, amazingly, is becoming a part of how a building gets positioned in the real estate market. Particularly, it seems, in Portland, where attaching an architect or firm name to a condo tower might be the thing that makes a buyer choose the John Ross over the Encore or the Casey over 937 (more architect-as-marketing later).

It's important for people to know who designed their living spaces -- who designed, in effect, the walls within their most basic and intimate lifestyle takes place. But it's also important, as a city, to know who designed the homes that are or will become architecturally significant. Real estate agents can have a big role. So can architects and developers, neighbors and writers, students and professors. Architecture is art -- treating it as such will save it.

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