Oregon: The Low-Key Utopia

January 14, 2020

The Dee Wright Observatory in the Willamette National Forest outside Bend The Dee Wright Observatory in the Willamette National Forest outside Bend

This week in The Architect’s Newspaper, Director of the Portland Architecture Program and Visiting Assistant Professor of Architecture Justin Fowler penned the essay “The mythologies of Oregon’s utopian seekers still inform its design and architecture today.”

“Oregon is of the American West, but not exactly the center of its mythos,” wrote Fowler.

He discusses the pros and cons of Oregon’s unique “low-key utopian” approach to design and architecture, from the dissolving of single-family zoning and leading the mass timber industry to NIMBY-ism and stagnating climate policy.

“As with other improvements over its history—UGBs [urban growth boundaries], public ownership of the coast, mass timber innovation by firms like LEVER and Hacker, ecodistricts, hydropower, cycling culture, and transit-oriented development—in paving the way for a proliferation of duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, Oregon again models a quietly progressive version of a future,” Fowler wrote.

Fowler also highlights the School of Architecture & Environment’s Design for Spatial Justice Initiative, “which mobilizes theory and practice in foregrounding narratives, experiences, and modes of design, political action, and biodiversity conservation long marginalized or excluded by fields responsible for the built environment.”

Read more of Fowler’s essay at The Architect’s Newspaper site.