reed magazine logowinter2006

Architectural Gems?


For John Daniel ’70, who roomed in Old Dorm Block during the 1960s, the building was a godsend. “I was lucky to have my first home-away-from-home within that traditional brick and stonework,” he says. “It felt substantial, which was important because I was nothing very substantial myself.”

Such musings wouldn’t surprise Lena Lencek, who teaches Russian history and literature at Reed. Addressing the college’s board of trustees on the master plan, she remarked: “Every fragment of the campus setting is Proustian madeleine for someone: a repository of memories and associations.”

But while memories and associations may have significance for individuals who once lived and learned on campus, it doesn’t follow that all buildings and spaces are architecturally equal. The Heritage Master Plan was developed to help guide the college’s physical growth, and its authors looked critically at Reed’s resources before offering recommendations about which buildings might be adaptively reused, which act as architectural signatures for the college.

In the end, the recommendations and rankings require nothing more of Reed’s policymakers than that they carefully consider certain buildings during phases of redevelopment. Diane Gumz, Reed’s director of corporate and foundation support and a member of the heritage plan committee, provides an example: “If a new building had to be constructed and there were a choice between building it on open space or having to replace the psych building, maybe it’d be better to put it on the open space.”

Gragg, for one, applauds the college’s efforts, particularly for its recognition of the more recent past. “To give Modernist-era buildings their due in a historic preservation plan shows great leadership,” he says. But even he acknowledges the plan’s flexibility. “These guys were Modernists. Their philosophy was one of reinvention. Their buildings should be modified and added to as new times and programmatic needs necessitate.”

Cielo Lutino ’94 is a former city planner in Portland.


Location, location, location

Glass, steel, brick, and mortar are only part of any campus landscape. There’s also, well, the landscape. Reed’s natural features figure as prominently in the Heritage Master Plan as its man-made structures, with the great lawn and Reed canyon receiving landmark status, along with Eliot Hall and Old Dorm Block. Irene Bowers, a member of the landscape architecture team at Mayer/Reed, says: “A unique aspect of Reed is the very soft residential edge of its front lawn that responds to the residential edge of Eastmoreland—much more park-like than campus-like.”

Bowers also highlights a campus feature with broader significance: Reed canyon. “It’s very important to the city watershed areas,” she says. “It has one of the few remaining spring-fed lakes around here.”

The canyon’s contribution to Portland’s natural habitat is valuable; its benefits to Reedies may be incalculable. Its woodsy offerings can be a welcome reprieve—even a refuge—for students. Abby Bridge ’93 had just such an experience there. “I spent about two weeks camping in the canyon when I was between houses at the beginning of my sophomore year,” she recalls. “I’m not sure if that’s the sort of thing the school wants to hear about!”

Reedies necessarily develop an intimate relationship with physical features of the campus that will never be called out in a preservationist’s ranking. “The smoking benches outside the library,” Michael Kim ’95 offers. “The places I remember most are the areas that encouraged social encounters. When I think of the Reedies I still know in New York City, they’re the ones I met while smoking on those benches.”

Lauren Gitlen ’98 harbors affection for another personal landmark: a metal grate outside Eliot Hall. “Some of my fondest Reed memories involve the heat vent, the mysterious forced air that provided a rain-free, warm, outdoor meeting spot on the main quad. Where did that hot air come from?”

Reed’s Heritage Master Plan doesn’t say.