Archive for the ‘national register of historic places’ Tag

Commonwealth Building, Portland, Oregon

Downtown Portland is full of generic structures sprouting all over, but has a few standouts. Arguably the most innovative building downtown is the Commonwealth Building (formerly the Equitable Building) located on 6th Avenue between Washington and Stark. It’s a shiny smooth skyscraper with limited prominence in the skyline, that yields little information about its age. It could be brand new, but was in fact completed in 1948, a young looking 70 years. Designed by Pietro Belluschi, much of the innovation of the building is unseen, and it remains a rather unknown structure long overshadowed by better known buildings in New York like Lever House. The building was given National Register status in 1976, a rare distinction as it was only 28 years old at the time.

It’s a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark for its technical innovations. Among them are central AC, double pane windows and an aluminum facade. The aluminum facade would later be used in other Midcentury skyscrapers like the Alcoa Building in Pittsburgh while the greenish glass would be a signature element in landmarks such as Lever House in New York and the Inland Steel Building in Chicago.

For the most part, the building has been sensitively modified, mostly to the entrances. Despite the apparent uniformity of the facade, the 6th Avenue and Stark St. elevations are slightly different. The window panes are subdivided into three sections along Stark, two along 6th. Subtle colors keep the facade lively, while the skin of the building is nearly smooth, as no section protrudes out more than 7/8″.

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Commonwealth (Equitable) Building, 1948.

 

 

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Sixth Street Viaduct, Los Angeles

Another post about a doomed structure.

This is LA’s grandest bridge, and at 3500 feet in length, the longest span over the industrial LA River basin. The Sixth Street Viaduct (Bridge) isĀ one of the city’s most recognized landmarks, seen in countless movies, commercials, and photos. There’s usually someone filming in the river basin below, and plenty of photographers in the area, despite the rather desolate setting of the immediate area. Technically, it’s a viaduct, crossing the river and several 1950s-era freeway spans before becoming Whittier Blvd. in Boyle Heights. The design is classic Art Deco, with a graceful, asymmetric double arch where it bends and crosses the river. The eastern entrance is a modified, angled obelisk, with a classic view of downtown LA in the distance.

Soaring over the industrial flats east of the LA River.

Soaring over the industrial flats east of the LA River.

It’s also crumbling, the concrete mix used in construction was faulty, and the structure was deteriorating from the start. The bridge was completed in 1932, and demolition will start in summer 2015. Fortunately, the replacement bridge is a stunning design with a clear nod to the old one.

View from near Santa Fe Avenue.

View from near Santa Fe Avenue, January 2014.

LA skyline from the bridge.

LA skyline from the bridge.

A closeup view shows lots of loose concrete, plenty of cracks, and structural damage. The structural problems led to many changes in the architecture of the bridge over the years. The fancy central pylon was removed a few years after completion, and the piers at the ends of the arches were shortened.

The Sixth Street Bridge as is appeared shortly after completion. Note Art Deco central pylon. Photo from LA Public Library collection.

The Sixth Street Bridge as is appeared shortly after completion. Note Art Deco central pylon. Photo from LA Public Library collection.

The bridge as it appeared in 1950, photo by William Reagh, from the LA Public Library collection. Central pylon has been removed.

The bridge as it appeared in 1950, with the central pylon removed. Photo by William Reagh, from the LA Public Library collection.