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Behold “The Fair-haired Dumbell” under construction in Portland, Oregon, down by the mighty Willamette River. Of course, every Modernist architectural eyesore of the past seventy-five years is given an affectionate (and disparaging) nick-name. Why? Because deep down the public hates these monstrosities, even if they pretend to like them when they arrive on the scene — who wants to appear to be against “the cutting edge?” Thus, “The Gherkin” in London and “The Pregnant Oyster” in Berlin and so on. The list is endless, but you get the idea.

This humdinger, by the Guerrilla Development Company — what’s more “cutting edge” than pretending to be guerrilla warriors? —  is a spec office building — and what’s more humdrum than working in an office?  The elevations are canted outward, promising interesting renovation problems ahead. Flat roof, ditto. It is verboten in US architectural culture these days to make any reference to traditional building forms. And the highest-and-best outcome is something that garners the designer brownie points for novelty. This one just screams “Look How Original I Am… Nothing Like Me Has Ever Been Seen Before In Human History.” And that’s pretty much true.

Architectural media suck-ups will laud this thing for “playfulness,” just wait. In fact, this project just mocks our human aspiration. Remember, nothing goes out of fashion faster than yesterday’s “cutting age. Bdlow, a rendering of the finished product. Uccchhh…

Thanks to Sam Boush for the nomination!

About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

6 Responses to “July 2017” Subscribe

  1. davidreese2 July 6, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    Might be acceptable as some bauble for children.

  2. erikSF99 July 8, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

    Jim, you forgot to mention that the “The Pregnant Oyster” in Berlin, the Kongresshalle, met in 1980 exactly the fate you predict for these buildings: after just 23 years the fancy roof collapsed of its own accord. tinyurl.com/oyster-collapse

    de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kongresshalle_(Berlin) a google translation:
    “The technical cause lay in a lack of planning of the roof as well as in defective construction. The grouting of the cladding tubes around the tension cables was damaged due to the constant attachment and relaxation of the roof by wind, snow and temperature fluctuations. As a consequence this caused corrosion-related fractures of the tension cable. ”

    In other words: the architects and engineers never thought about the fact that the building would be subject to…weather!

  3. ZrCrypDiK July 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm #

    OMG, this monstrosity is in “mah ghetto.” PDX, wtf you doin’?!? I can’t decide which side looks worse – the painted or unpainted one (have they completed painting? bottom pic looked like a CAD rendering)…

    Earthquakes are a concern here – this thing HAD to be up to spec, eh?!…

  4. dellafella July 10, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

    Rule #1 in the Post-Modern Playbook: if it looks like hot shit in the renderings, it’s guaranteed to look like actual shit in real life. The sad thing is, this is not even the ugliest building on that BLOCK. That dubious distinction belongs to an (unaffordable) housing monstrosity called “Yard” — fitting, actually, since it matches the color of something you might find in the yard if you own a dog. Google image search it if you dare. Methinks they realized how ugly Yard would be halfway through construction and so commissioned someone to make the surrounding buildings as obnoxious as possible to distract from its looming presence. Hence, the Dumbell. Sad to say, Portland is currently in the midst of a vigorous contest to see who can design the least inspiring piece of infrastructure.

  5. jayrome July 10, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    What a pathetic waste of good building materials.
    Although the structure ( I don’t want to classify it as a building) might have good surfaces to grow mildew, black mold, mosses and lichens?
    We’ll just have to wait maybe thirty years or so, provided the place is still standing.
    I’m always baffled that some entity paid money for this thing to be build in the first place.

  6. smoothtom July 24, 2017 at 10:03 am #

    Okay, you’re mocking its decoration and form, which I’ll agree is a bit silly. But it’s a street-fronting building in a densely-build area that works well with pedestrians, bicycles, and mass transit. That’s exactly what you’ve spent a career advocating. You might not like the form, but the function is exactly as you prescribe–and, yet, you mock.

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