Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Portland Columns

Photos of The Portland Columns, the two travertine pillars outside the entrance to Portland's downtown Justice Center. I hadn't immediately realized they were Art, and not just architectural details of the building, but that's what all the databases say, so who am I to argue? The RACC page says this:

The “Portland Columns” by Walter Dusenberry were installed in 1983 as part of Multnomah County’s Percent for Art Program for the Justice Center. The travertine columns were carved in Pietrasanta, Italy, where Dusenberry works 9 months out of the year. He chose travertine for their golden color and because the semi-crystalline limestone becomes more intense when water hits it, “almost like it is illuminated from inside” which is significant in Portland’s heavy rain. The Italians, who use it for fountains, say travertine “has muscles and nerves”. The columns are slightly asymmetrical, “like justice, they arrive at the same conclusion by different paths.”

The artist's website has a few photos of the columns, taken in sunny, dry weather, for comparison. I do like the idea of something designed to look its best when wet, since that's more or less our default weather situation here. Off the top of my head it's the only example I can think of. I suppose doing this is the sort of concept that seems perfectly obvious once someone else has thought of it. The endless coping-with-stormwater artworks don't count; that's a whole other genre (and a weirdly popular one here). Anyway, it would probably help if the columns looked less like the building they adorn; you'd get roughly the same effect with travertine lions or caryatids or something, and then people would at least notice them a bit more.

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