Portland’s monster buildings prepare for MONSTER-BUILDER onslaught

Star American playwright Amy Freed has a world premiere on Saturday night. A Freed WP doesn’t come around just any day of the week and is cause for major excitement and anticipation. But asterisk – this one ain’t in New York, San Francisco, or Chicago. It’s right here in Portland at Artists Rep. Freed’s THE MONSTER-BUILDER, a story about a maniacal power architect gone amok, easily moves to the top of the list for part 2 of the local 2013-14 theatre season.

Could a play about (among other things) blighting the urban landscape with notably and sometimes spectacularly non beautiful (often called ugly) buildings find any traction in our Northwestern hamlet? For a city obsessed with local, craft, hand-made uniqueness, and style, Portland is awash in some of the ugliest new structures you could find anywhere.

Why is that?

If you missed out on the fun of Warsaw in the 1950’s and 1960’s, don’t worry. You can still experience life in one of “Stalin’s wedding cakes”, as the high rise poured concrete housing projects that are now crumbling all over the former Soviet bloc are known.

Only now we call it “new urbanism” – and we cover the exterior with a thin layer of off white brick or faux wood veneer.

As the wrecking ball swings and old Portland goes down, what are we putting up in its place? Is it elegant? Is it unique? Is it specific in any way to Portland? Or is it simply “cheap, fast, and out of control”? Why is beautiful public architecture (as opposed to private – there is no shortage of stunning private homes) so scarce in Portland?

Over the course of THE MONSTER-BUILDER’s run, tune in for a series of photo portraits of what the new Portland (good, bad, and otherwise) looks like…