My first task here is to convincingly separate the building from the statue.
From what's visible from the street, it's not hard to do -- they aren't integrated physically, stylistically, or in any understandable compositional scheme. They're not only strangers, they're from different class backgrounds and historical eras. Portlandia obviously comes from a good family, something like the Statue of Liberty's younger sister who didn't like New York and took off for the northwest. The building she's standing on is the bastard child of a Members Only jacket factory. They just met.
That said, Portlandia wouldn't be beckoning to pedestrians from that pedestal if it hadn't been for the imagination of Michael Graves. He drew it, he specified it, he fought for it.
Luckily for me, and you, it's not necessary to go into a long boring explication of Graves's role as daring postmodern architect, or the meaning (zzzz zzzz zzzz) of his inclusion of references to the classical era of American architecture. One photo, and most of that graduate-school discussion magically resolves itself.
Michael Graves, Team Disney Building, Burbank, 1986
I think it's accurate to say that Graves was responsible for the presence of A sculpture, some sculpture or other, as an accessory for his building. Graves is clearly not responsible for the quality of Raymond Kaskey's modeling or for Portlandia's allegorical resonance. She turns the whole equation on its head. She's an accident.
(more to come)
Copyright 2009 Walt Lockley. All rights reserved.
Photo of Team Disney Building by flickr user legotech and used here under Creative Commons license: