“Let us never lose sight of our little rustic hut.”


—Abbé Laugier, L’Essai Sur L’Architecure, 1755

In 1755, Abbé Marc-Antoine Laugier proposed that with no other guidance than his natural instinct, man will construct a “primitive hut” formed of vertical supports with a horizontal covering. This is the most stripped-down definition of architecture and of a home.

To build a house is a significant task. Even to build a primitive shelter in the wilderness that provides the necessary coverage and protection from weather is a task that requires labor and know-how. Now of course, with tower cranes and heavy machinery, houses seem to grow like weeds, effortlessly and rapidly. A city block you had last visited just six months ago may now present an entirely new facade.

New principles of modern architecture. New city planning and political oversight. New technological forces of industrialization and construction methods. New mindsets about what a dwelling should be and look like.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, when many of the typical wood-framed homes we see in Portland were first constructed, home construction was a manual task.  It was laborious and time-consuming. It was not until 1958 that the Federal Housing Administration actually issued the first presciptive construction requirements; structures prior to that often just followed “rules of thumb” for materials, engineering, and other structural requirements.

Just as these houses were significant to build, they are just as significant to demolish. A house, as a home, is the site of many personal histories. These are the sites where most of us make the more intimate and intentional moments of life. Where we rest, where we recharge, and where we maintain family life. Just to be a resident of a home is an incredible privilege. To be inside, protected from whatever malices lie on the outside.

We build houses or buy them, fix them and decorate them. We grow gardens and paint the walls. People live in houses, love in houses, fight in houses, and die in the same houses in which babies are conceived and which children grow up in. Much of life happens in houses, and that is why I think they are so interesting. They are time-resistent bystanders that facilitate and contain our busy little lives.

Portland homes are being demolished at an unprecedented rate. In 2000, only 81 demolition permits were finalized. In 2015, 330 permits were finalized. (Finalized means the structures were demolished.) This site is a collection of photographs of structures that have permits under review, issued, or finalized for demolition. Included are addresses, dates of permit issue sourced from city websites, and the date I visited and photographed the property.

This project is neither protest nor political statement. It is an archive and documentation of a changing landscape.




-RS