Saturday, January 25, 2014

Arch with Oaks

If you live or work in Portland's western suburbs, you've probably driven the Sunset Highway more times than you can count. And at least one of these times, you were probably stuck in traffic next to the giant steel archway next to the eastbound lanes of Sunset, just east of the Cornell/158th exit you probably should have taken to avoid this traffic snarl. If you were really bored, you might have wondered what the deal is with this arch. It's even possible you're stuck in traffic right now and you're googling the arch on your phone. Anyway, today's your lucky day, other than the whole traffic nightmare obviously. This arch is called Arch with Oaks, and it belongs to the surrounding Cornell Oaks Corporate Center business park. It was created in 1986 by Lee Kelly, a prominent local sculptor since time immemorial. There are a lot more works of his around Portland, mostly closer to downtown; I've covered enough of them here that I've added a 'kelly' tag to the posts to keep track of them all. Despite that I wouldn't characterize myself as a fan, for the most part. I'll make an exception for the arch, though. I actually like this one.

The Smithsonian art inventory page for it (the first link) says it's 30' high. Kelly's website says it's either 38' or 48' feet high depending on which page you're looking at. I'm terrible at guessing heights, but the 38' number feels about right.

A September 11th, 1986 Oregonian article about Arch with Oaks explains that the developers opted for a giant arch sculpture instead of a traditional sign as a sign of "quality", to attract a better sort of tenant to their shiny new business park. Plus it was a gift to the community and a symbol for the entire Sunset Corridor. It probably didn't hurt that the arch cost them $100,000 in 1986 dollars, while an ordinary sign was estimated to run around $130,000. Pretty sure everyone loves to talk about quality and aesthetics when it's saving them $30k, roughly the price of a new BMW 3 series back then.

[View Larger Map]

It took a while to figure out how to visit Arch with Oaks. It sits astride a creek in a open area in the business park, north of Greenbrier Parkway next to the FOX 12 TV studios. I came by on a weekend morning, parked in the studio's visitor parking lot, and took a lightly used walking trail over to the arch. It turns out there's actually a "Private Property, No Trespassing" sign right next to the arch to discourage people from standing under it, I guess, although I didn't notice any taser-happy security guards lurking around while I was there. Your mileage may vary, obviously. (Oh, and there's apparently a geocache somewhere nearby, if you're into that sort of thing.)

Oh, and not to be pedantic here, but most of the trees near the arch are willows, not oaks. There are a couple of oak trees next to the office building on the opposite side of the creek, but they aren't a prominent presence around the arch, so the name seems just a little misleading. Maybe there were more oak trees here before this part of the office park was built out. Sort of like the old cliche about subdivisions being named after what they replaced ("Aspen Grove", "Pacific Vista", that sort of thing).

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