Update, 7:28pm: Libby has apologized for his negative rhetoric in the comments here, and taken the words "arrogant ignorance" out of the title of his blog post.
Original post, 2:23pm If there's one thing City Commissioner Randy Leonard enjoys, it's a public fight...An email back:
Thank you for the invitation and for the kind acknowledgements of my work to preserve the historic John Yeon building.
After reading both your post and your personal email to me, I must say that your characterization of me as "whip-smart" and "a tremendous friend and ally to the architecture, green buildings, and arts communities" in your email and then as the embodiment of "Arrogant Ignorance" in your post has my head spinning. Calling me ignorant and posting a picture of "Ernest" (although you appear to have reconsidered the picture and have now taken it down from your site) hardly inspires me to engage in a thoughtful discussion with you, Brian. And it certainly doesn't inspire me to take you up on your offer to educate me with a tour. Asking me to go on a tour of the Coliseum because you are convinced that the benefit of your artistic insight will cause me to change my mind about its aesthetic value is akin to trying to explain a joke so that the listener finally believes it's funny. I appreciate straight talk and candid communication, but I don't tend to respond well to pretentious elitism. You might keep that in mind for future correspondence.
I don't know what the Ernest picture is about, but Libby's blog does accuse Leonard of "arrogant ignorance" this morning. For Leonard to accuse Libby of inconsistency is interesting, given that he was pushing to save the John Yeon-designed Waterfront Visitors Center as a jewel of "modernist architecture" only two weeks ago, yet now seems intent to call another work of modernist architecture ugly. Still, let this be a lesson to all of us: When online, take the high road, because it lives in the Google cache forever. I, of course, have never made any such mistakes.
I do believe the Memorial Coliseum to be ugly. That's my opinion. And while I appreciate the knowledge and passion architects and designers bring to discussions of the city's planning goals, I also believe that you, as a small but vocal group, are failing to see the bottom line here: The building that you believe to be an architectural gem and that I find displeasing simply isn't functional. It takes up a huge space in an area that needs to be able to accommodate diverse needs. After years of discussions, no one has been able to come up with a viable use for the building. You called it a sleeping giant. Unfortunately, I think of it as the fat white elephant sitting in the middle of my living room where ("Blue-collar Everyman" that I am), I'd like to put my recliner, my television, my stereo and maybe even a TV tray or two.
As far as the Coliseum being a memorial to veterans, I can only tell you that I believe it to be more of an insult than a tribute to those who gave their all to defend our country. Ask Portlanders on the street to name the city's memorials to veterans and I doubt that one out of one hundred would mention the Coliseum. Veterans' groups deserve a true memorial park that raises awareness and speaks for itself. If it has to be explained, much as your invitation for a tour suggests, than something isn't working.
Perhaps there are other options here that we have not yet entertained, including the possibility of moving some or all of the Coliseum's shell to another location. In that vein, I'd be happy to talk with you about an idea I have had to save the Coliseum: You take it down and you can have it.
It's a shame Leonard isn't taking the opportunity to go along on the tour because it would be very interesting, I think, for Portlanders to see to see him and Libby talking about the architecture, indeed, having a public disagreement about its merits, while inside the building itself. We'd cover it on video, gentlemen! Still, this email exchange is fascinating to watch. I wonder if Libby will write back? The commissioner does seem to have rather thrown down the gauntlet.