Bing Sheldon and preserving Portland values

Farewell to Bing Sheldon, who believed in us more than maybe we deserved, plus more News and Notes

Among other things, the death of Bing Sheldon reminds us that the “new” Portland connects deeply with our past and repudiates it at the same time—even the parts that seem part of our DNA.  Sheldon, who founded SERA Architects, worked this paradox for much of his career, urging us to save the essential elements of the city by building with them in mind.

Sheldon’s 2012 interview with Portland Architecture’s Brian Libby about the fate of Old Town is a perfect case in point. If you are looking for an arch-preservationist, you won’t find one in that interview or his determination to demolish buildings that have “outlived their usefulness.” And if you are a free-marketeer, you won’t find an ally, either, because Sheldon thought that the public had an important stake in the development of the city, too. But we can’t simply stop all new building.

Libby quotes Sheldon: “Cities that don’t change, die. That’s what I believe.”

Bing Sheldon

Bing Sheldon

In Portland right now, our civic discourse encourages us either to be pro- or anti-development, primarily because the city is growing quickly, we have an affordable housing shortage, and old Portland is disappearing (as Portland Chronicle is tracking).  It’s a false choice. As much as I love them, all Portland bungalows won’t make it through this cycle, but we can make sure that the values they represented when they were built DO make it—affordable, pleasant, walkable neighborhoods with higher densities than we have now.

That’s going to take negotiation. What was Sheldon calling for in his interview with Libby? A meeting of Old Town’s property owners, developers, social service agencies and ethnic groups find a way to preserve the district by giving it new life. It’s a different problem than the one we face now, but our solution is similar. It’s called democracy.

I met and talked to Sheldon when he was the interim president of the Portland Art Museum, and in those encounters he was cordial, straight and curious, exactly the sort of person you’d want helping to decide things—like the Downtown Plan of 1972, which Sheldon helped shape into a document that was remarkable intelligent and far-reaching.

We need more Bing Sheldons, and maybe that’s the best eulogy there is.


The University of Oregon has announced that the next dean of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts is Christoph Lindner, who is professor of media and culture at the University of Amsterdam.

Lindner is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work spans the fields of architecture, geography, media arts, visual culture, and urban planning and design, according to the press release.

“A&AA is ideally positioned to be a global leader in the study of design, visual culture, and the built, natural, and social environments,” Lindner said. “I am looking forward to working with everyone at A&AA, as well as with the wider UO community, in shaping this vision.”


Portland’5 Centers for the Arts and ArtBar & Bistro have announced the schedule for the 11th Annual Music on Main summer outdoor concert series, a great way to glimpse a wide range of Portland bands for free. The concerts begin at 5 pm Wednesdays and end at 7 pm and are Southwest Main Street, between Broadway & Park Ave., next to Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Food and drink are available at the ArtBar Bistro Starting at 4:30 pm.

Music on Main 2016 Schedule: 

July 6 – Orquestra Pacifico Tropical

July 13 – Logan Brill

July 20 – Kathryn Claire and Big Bridges

July 27 – Garcia Birthday Band

August 3 – Eyelids with Denim Wedding

August 10 – The Yachtsmen

August 17 – Mary Flower and the BBQ Boys

August 24 – Red Baraat

August 31 – Redray Frazier and Mic Crenshaw

September 7 – Pepe and the Bottle Blondes


Just a reminder: If you’re keeping track of photography in Portland, Guy Swanson’s monthly Photo Happenings is the place to go.


Maybe you don’t make it to the Governor’s Office very frequently—I NEVER do—but if you ever were inclined to drop in, this might be the time.

To Be Continued, 2015, installation by 2016 Joan Shipley Fellow Natalie Ball, to be included in "Selected Works" in the Governor's Office May 16- June 30.

To Be Continued, 2015, installation by 2016 Joan Shipley Fellow Natalie Ball, to be included in “Selected Works” in the Governor’s Office May 16- June 30.

The Oregon Arts Commission’s 2016 Individual Artist Fellows will be featured in “Selected Works” in the Governor’s Office May 16 to June 30. The 2016 Fellows include: Natalie Ball, Chiloquin (Joan Shipley Fellow); Fernanda D’Agostino, Portland; Laurie Danial, Portland; Tannaz Farsi, Eugene; Julie Green, Corvallis; Laura Heit, Portland; Michael T. Hensley, Portland; Aaron Flint Jamison, Portland; Jim Lommasson, Portland; Elizabeth Malaska, Portland; Brenna Murphy, Portland; Ronna Neuenschwander, Portland; and Blair Saxon-Hill, Portland.

The exhibit is free and open to the public.


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