Sunday, September 28, 2014

Oregon Portland Cement Gargoyles

The Oregon Portland Cement Building is a small but historic industrial building at SE 1st & Madison, next to (and below) the Hawthorne Bridge viaduct. Its sorta-Art Deco look is unusual for Portland, and more decorative than you'd expect from a cement warehouse. Like much of the Central Eastside, it's been converted to lofts in recent years, which means it's gotten a fresh paint job, including gold paint for the four gargoyles on the front of the building. These gargoyles are why we're here, actually; the building's National Register of Historic Places form explains:

The subject building was designed by noted Lake Oswego architect Richard Sundeleaf. In Frozen Music: A History of Portland Architecture (1985), authors Bosker and Lencek describe Sundeleaf as an architect who catered to "Portland's entrepreneurs on the rise", designing many offices, warehouses, and industrial plants in a modernistic tone. Sundeleaf's knack for tailoring anarchitectural style to fit a client's image is exemplified in the subject building. Bosker and Lencek go on to state: "With its cast-stone classical dentils and bulldog-faced gargoyles designed by Lavare, this creamy concrete structure projected a serene lyricism that celebrated the dignity of modern building materials," and "every effort was made to demonstrate the versatility of the cement manufacturers product."

The sculptor behind the gargoyles was Gabriel Lavare, a California sculptor who lived in Portland for much of the 1930s. For the most part he specialized in sculpted reliefs, like his minimalist lions at the entrance to Washington Park. I've always liked those lions, so when I realized he created these gargoyles too, a blog post about them was basically inevitable. The post about the lions includes a rundown of his career in Portland, so I don't think I need to rehash that here. The short version is that he found success here, but he left by the early 1940s and the city promptly forgot about him. Pointing out obscure and forgotten stuff is kind of a specialty of this humble blog, and in this case it's an obscure and forgotten person, someone who created some interesting work while he was here.

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