The Lake Oswego Development Review Commission will soon consider the proposed development of the Wizer block. There has been plenty said about how the project will or will not fit into our city and the East End in particular. In my professional opinion as an architect who has worked on many similar projects and has called Lake Oswego home for most of my life, it will fit in quite nicely indeed.

What has not been discussed is the actual architecture. This project is blessed with one of the premier architectural firms in our region and the proposed design reflects a very high degree of design excellence. This is no easy task when you consider the design standards for the East End redevelopment district seem bent on some amalgam of Timberline Lodge and Beatrix Potter.

I am not sure why it was decided that these historic residential styles, evident in several lovely homes around Lake Oswego, should determine the Lake Oswego Style in the redeveloped commercial East End. There is certainly no shortage of modernist masterpieces sprinkled around our city that could have served as a basis for inspiration as well. But like them or not, these are the architectural design standards the DRC will use to judge the new project. We should all, including the DRC, sing the praises of the sensitive design of this much anticipated development. The proposed design elegantly takes design references rooted in several of the centuries prior to the 20th and infuses them with a subtle current modernism.

The creative use of low eave lines to greatly reduce mass, good urban proportion, human-scaled detailing and thoughtful composition of traditional materials capture the aspirations of the design standards without creating the theater-set clichés we have suffered on other Lake Oswego projects.

Additionally, the Community Development Code promotes a village character for downtown. While Lake Oswego is, in fact, a small city, I can understand and support the desire to create a comfortable and humanly scaled central core. In retrospect, “village” may have been the wrong term to adopt since it brings small English towns to mind with thatched roofs and sheep grazing on the village green. But if we put the Hollywood imagery aside for the moment and focus on what the code is actually trying to accomplish, namely street-level vibrancy, creation of place, quality traditional materials and a comfortable sense of historic context, the proposed design hits a home run. Classic materials like brick, stone, wood siding, plaster and sub-divided windows and storefronts are all elements gracefully integrated into this project along with practically utilized steep roof lines, which dramatically reduce the scale of the multibuilding project.

Incorporating three distinct but complementary building vocabularies also breaks this super block into very manageable sub-blocks and introduces new streets to the neighborhood.

Streets are the essence of village character. They are the public arena where people meet, talk and laugh together. Lake View Village is so successful primarily because it creates a very successful street presence. Sidewalk dining, fun alcoves and alleys with public art and whimsy all contribute to the street scene we crave.

I truly hope the DRC sees this project for the quality architecture that it is. A yes vote for this project is a yes vote for design excellence and architectural integrity.

Bruce Brown is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Contract Publishing

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