Finding Portland

"Lost Sites" gives architectural ideas a purpose
By IAN PAIGE  |  April 4, 2007
MECA STUDENTS’ IDEA: Quite literally, a feedback loop.

Petra Fogie, 27, is an architectural designer living and working in Portland. She has been on the board of Architalx for two years. The Portland Phoenix sat down with her to discuss the organization’s design competition, “Lost Sites,” currently showing at Aucocisco.

What is architalx?
Architalx is a volunteer architecture and design non-profit organization dedicated to providing contemporary design lectures for the Portland community. One of the things that design professionals can miss living here is that we don’t have a school or academic department that will bring the kind of cross-pollination that happens in a bigger city. The lecture series helps feed us as professionals.

Who comprises this design-professional constituency?
Our mailing list is full of several thousand people, and is probably heavy on architects, graphic designers, builders, and developers — people who are actively involved in building the places that you and I live and work. There are also people who are generally interested, community members concerned with how their city is shaped by these issues or interested in simply listening to someone in the top of their field speak.

So the “lost sites” exhibit is a new direction for the organization. How did it come about?
Last year, we discussed bringing an exhibit that the Architecture League in New York had put together that focuses on urban context, housing, and communities. That seemed interesting, but then we realized it would be way cooler if there was a project generated in Portland that was specific to our city.
So this is an open call sketch project where anybody, regardless of their experience or skill level, can have input about what could or should happen in a particular space.

In what way is the exhibit politically motivated?
It’s more of a mental exercise than a particular political motivation. Architalx in general is not a political organization. We do, however, hope this affects how people view their communities. If this exhibit spurs people to go to their planning board meetings more often or to speak up when there’s a request for a zoning change that impacts their community, then we’ve achieved a goal to open people’s awareness rather than advocating a specific position. This is especially evident in the exhibit since this open call resulted in submissions with no expectation of being built!

Can you provide an example?
We received responses from professional architects, student groups, and interested parties with no particular design association. Some are very conceptual. A group of MECA students responded to our open call with an open-call-machine. They chose the site down the center of Franklin Arterial and made a plan for a continuous loop of paper that feeds around and around with pencils and background reading materials for you to make a submission on their submission. Even though the project was not buildable, they captured the essence of what these projects are all about. I think it’s a great response.

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