Wednesday Vignette – off the beaten path

The other day, I got sick of sitting in traffic, and jumped the freeway for a shortcut through the remnants of Portland’s NW Industrial area. There was something about this building, with the Fremont bridge in the background, the gray, overcast skies, and the weedy patch in front of it that really spoke to me.

NW Industrial

The weathered corrugated siding, the darker recesses of the roll-up door, combined with the softer straw colors of the vegetation in front of it, and with the splash of red parked next to it – well, I really thought it was beautiful! Buildings like this really are becoming a symbol of a different time in Portland’s history – a time when the city had a lot more grit than in its current incarnation as a polished yuppie playground. A time when the free-thinkers and creatives that made this town so attractive to others, could actually afford to bring their ideas to a place with similarly minded, and settle down to shape their lives in a way they desired. There has been a lot of outside capital invested in the hot Portland real estate market lately, and every neighborhood have gaping wounds where once more modest housing stock stood. People are outraged! Rape and pillaging still seems modus operandi in the culture of invaders, as profit trumps affordability. It is my fear that these kinds of views will be rendered obsolete as the condo developers try to outdo each other. So, while I still can – I’m photographing them for posterity. Get off the beaten path yourself -take a different route home. You will likely gasp at what you see.

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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25 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – off the beaten path

  1. Mark and Gaz says:

    Quite a haunting image, in a nice way if that makes sense…

  2. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening! says:

    “..a time when the city had a lot more grit..” Love this description! Cities change though — at least American ones do — as I know myself since my great grandmother’s Chicago candy store was replaced in the last couple of decades with upscale housing.

    • annamadeit says:

      Your grandma had a candy store? Wow… The disappearance of that must have been very hard to watch…I don’t mind the change per se, but the way it is happening is disgusting. Perfectly good (albeit sometimes a bit worn) structures are torn down, massive trees cut down, and five skinny houses go up instead. It’s totally disruptive of existing neighborhood fabrics, and the City does nothing to prevent it.

  3. Peter/Outlaw says:

    A beautiful image! Tacoma has lost a lot of its grit as well. Some of that is a good thing but there was something kind of special about all of the abandoned buildings and the red light district downtown. They’ve cleaned up a lot of things but since all of the big downtown stores migrated to the mall in the south end of town in the 60’s and 70’s, they’ve been replaced by an endless stream of failed businesses and trendy condos. Seattle used to be a cool, quirky and friendly city and now it’s just a big city in which housing is incredibly expensive and traffic is a nightmare. Crazy. I somehow thought that Portland was the last northwest bastion of the good old west coast grit. Pity but I guess it’s the wave of the future – clean up everything and get rid of all of that cool stuff in the attic.

    My WV contribution can be found here:

    • annamadeit says:

      Yeah, I think we got here right at the nick of time. We often wondered if buying when we did was the right thing to do, but in retrospect it probably was. I have all the empathy in the world for people with reasonably normal incomes trying to get a foothold now. It’s sad and insane, all at the same time.

  4. Luisa says:

    We lose a lot in the process of gentrification. A California farmer I know just wrote a great post about its vast impact:

    I love the old, corrugated siding in that photo, and wish I could incorporate that weathered metal (on a very, very small scale) into my own garden. Terrific, thought-provoking shot.

    I’ll throw my hat into the meme ring this week:

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Luisa – I’ll be sure to read both your post and that of the California farmer. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t use some of that rusty goodness in your garden – it is such a great texture. And it looks so damn good with leafy green goodness!

  5. Great shot Anna. While I agree 100% about the stupidity of tearing down of perfectly good housing (just because it’s “old” and doesn’t take up the entire lot and have 5 bathrooms). I think there will always be a little grit in Portland, scenes like this will never completely go away, they’ll just be a little harder to find.

    My entry is even less colorful than yours!

    • annamadeit says:

      I sure hope so, Loree. I don’t do too well in over-polished environments. And yeah – what is the appeal with behemoth buildings on undersized lots??? I just don’t get it…

  6. Elvis says:

    This is a beautiful image, Anna. I’m glad you’re documenting these places. I also bemoan the loss of fascinating industrial and modest residential buildings as Portland continues to reinvent itself (with the help of developers of all stripes.)
    My entry today is quite a bit sunnier – today’s drizzle has me slightly desperate for some brightness:

    • annamadeit says:

      When we were first looking to move here, we looked along the Vancouver – Williams corridor for live-work spaces. Our friends here were wondering why in the world we wanted to live there. Then we completely missed the boat by moving overseas for five years. When we came back, none of the ones we looked at were even close to attainable. Today, they don’t even exist anymore! Wow – what a whirlwind gentrification!

  7. rickii says:

    I pass and admire that very scene often, on my way to Ristretto Roasters on Nicolai. We lived in that neighborhood for 13 years and watched it morph from the tail end of creation to the new up and coming hot spot. I’ve lived in Portland long enough to mourn the loss of many little pockets of run-down real estate taken over by artists. The creatives will always find new digs and make them so interesting that the developers eventually follow. It is sad in a way, but, on the other hand, would we want to live in a static state?
    My vignette this week comes from Cistus, where the Tough Love Sale is going on:

    • annamadeit says:

      You know Rickii, when I read your book, that is exactly the area where I thought you lived! Funny that you know exactly where this is… It is true that the creatives will always move on and find better pasture, and I have a feeling that it won’t be Portland. I don’t care too much for static, but it would be nice to have a little diversity.

  8. I hate the freeway. The back roads are so much more interesting. This photo is a testament to that. I absolutely love rusty corrugated metal and with the tawny weeds in front of it and the bridge behind it… what a great photo!

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Grace! I’m with you – I much prefer taking the backroads and exploring neighborhoods. Just the fact that you’re moving – albeit at a slower pace – makes commuting so much more tolerable than inching forward in traffic.

  9. Kris P says:

    “Redevelopment” is so common in southern California that we’re becoming numb to it. My own area is going through almost constant gut jobs of the smaller homes that were once common here – a house down the street was taken down to the foundation and is on it’s way to becoming something much larger right now. As soon as one is done, another one starts. At least our view ordinance helps to hold off some of the mansionization that plagues other areas. (Who in heck needs a 60,000 square foot home anyway?!) My post this week reflects benign excess:

  10. annamadeit says:

    60,000 sf – holy crap, that is ridiculous!!! That “remodeling” craze is going on here too. A remodeling permit is issued, and the building is subsequently taken down completely. What the hell is up with that? That’s not remodeling – that’s demolition!

  11. Cath says:

    That’s a great photo. I love the textures and get lines and the little green
    street sign. I took a few photos of similar sorts of buildings on the way down from Vancouver to San Francisco. There’s something about the light which creates that very crisp and almost flat look of the corrugated iron against the sky.

  12. mattb325 says:

    It’s such a great photo – the old industrial areas are always ripe for fantastic juxtapositions, and they always have so much more personality than the modern pre-fab industrial warehouse/office combo boxes that you see everywhere (assuming of course it isn’t turned into condos!)

    • annamadeit says:

      Yeah, I have vowed to go down there more often, armed with camera, before it’s too late. You are right about the personality part – so much more interesting that the glossy new stuff. Is the same thing happening where you are, Matt?

      • mattb325 says:

        Absolutely – property prices in the Sydney area make it almost impossible for industry to survive, and any old industrial areas are (or already have been) razed for high-density living.
        Here in the mountains, about 60mi from the city, its not as bad, but a 1/4 acre of land in my town goes for around $600K, so it makes it very difficult for any businesses to survive with that sort of outlay.

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