Aubrey Watzek House, Portland, Oregon, 1937

Aubrey Watzek House, Portland, Oregon, 1937

Quest for Beauty: John Yeon in Portland



‘Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and Collections of John Yeon’: Portland Art Museum presents a retrospective look at architect John Yeon (1910-94). May 13 – September 3, 2017.

Source: Portland Art Museum

Few architects have influenced so many facets of a region as John Yeon (1910-94). For those acquainted with the name at all, he is most widely remembered as an architect, in particular for a series of houses—most prominently, the 1937 Aubrey Watzek House—that drew an international spotlight to what came to be known as the Northwest Regional style of modernism. His far-reaching innovations in construction and in what today is called sustainable design and his stylistic freedom from modernist dogma anticipated later movements ranging from the ecological modernism of Glenn Murcutt to the postmodern eclecticism of Robert Venturi and Charles Moore.

Yet as a planner, conservationist, art collector, historic preservationist, urban activist, and, perhaps most of all, connoisseur of elegance and craft, Yeon showed equal vision, whether crafting the gentle curves of a chandelier, shaping precedent-stretching gardens, choosing notable works of Asian and European decorative arts, or preserving what are now some of the Northwest’s most enjoyed vistas. Yeon wrote the first environmental impact statement for the Columbia Gorge, stopped roads and development that would have marred treasured scenic vistas at the Oregon Coast, played a pivotal role in the creation of Olympic National Park, and prevented the demolition of the Greek Revival First National Bank in Portland.

Yeon once compared his attitude toward architecture to that of a “landscape painter imagining what would look good in his landscape painting.” The primacy of the visual—the quest for beauty—applied to Yeon’s every pursuit.



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