Saturday, June 14, 2014

SW Tyrol Circle

Today's mini-adventure takes us to another place on that list I found of obscure Portland quasi-parks and greenspaces and whatnot, which I've slowly been working my way through. SW Tyrol Circle is a little cul-de-sac off SW 18th Place, up in the West Hills. For some reason the center of the cul-de-sac was done up as a sort of roundabout, I suppose because it looks fancy and European that way. In any case, the city owns this little circle and handles the landscaping and whatnot, so it showed up on the list. I went back and forth about whether this place was worth bothering with, but it looked kind of weird on Street View, and it's definitely obscure, so here we are.

This is the part where I'd tell you all sorts of fascinating stories about the place and its origins, if only these stories existed and were on the interwebs somewhere. But no, not this time. Other than pages of boring real estate stuff, one of the top hits was actually my earlier blog post that included the full list I've been working from. The library's Oregonian database just had more boring real estate stuff stretching back into the 1950s.

I did get one semi-interesting Google result that has nothing at all to do with the little circle here. The Supplement to the Imperial Gazetteer, a British tome from 1868, includes short blurbs about various towns in the mountainous region of Tyrol, in Austria, and the location descriptions often include the word "circle", so the book contains a number of entries like this:

RATTENBERG, a tn. Austrian empire, Tyrol, circle and 28 m. N.E. Innsbruck, r. bank Inn. It was a place of some strength till 17S2, when its fortifications were destroyed, and possesses a handsome parish church, with fine wood carvings, a town-school, a female industrial school, and a Servite monastery. Pop. 1100.

I'm not sure what "circle" signifies here, and this book only comes up as a hit because Google seems to ignore commas. In any event, the aforementioned town of Rattenberg now boasts a population of only 405, and is apparently the smallest incorporated town in all of Austria. So the population's fallen by nearly 2/3 since 1868, and honestly I can't blame people for leaving. It seems the town's on a north-facing slope in a deep valley in the Alps, and receives essentially zero sunlight all winter. I'm used to not seeing the sun directly in the winter, being in Portland and all, but that would be just too much. I'd leave too. Great town if you're a vampire though. Back in 2005 the town proposed a system of computer-controlled mirrors to reflect sunlight into parts of the town, but as of 2014 this remains at the blueprint stage.

Portland's wintry grimness is nowhere near that dire, but it's fun to think about what the equivalent system would be like here. The problem isn't the angle of the sun, but the unbroken layer of clouds. But of course it's nice and sunny on the other side of that pesky cloud layer. I imagine what you'd want is an enormous periscope tower, poking up through the clouds and delivering sunlight to the huddled masses below. So, sure, this would be significantly taller than any structure that currently exists anywhere on earth. And yes, I haven't done the math but I'm fairly sure this would be more expensive than just buying everyone in town a plane ticket to Vegas over the winter. Still, this is the sort of (literally) blue-sky idea that wins all sorts of architecture and design awards, and brings fame and fortune to the designer. Even if it never gets funded, or it's flat-out impossible to build. That sounds like fun, and more importantly it sounds easy. Everybody knows the software industry (my line of work) is full of vaporware, but you do have to actually ship a product at some point or people will start to make fun of you. You certainly don't win awards for Best Vaporware. If I could just show off some PowerPoint slides and score a swanky trophy or wall plaque or something, and an invite to a glitzy awards banquet, that would save a hell of a lot of time and effort. I'm starting to think I may be working in the wrong industry.

No comments :