Nestled on a hilltop above Skyline Boulevard in Southwest Portland, the Aubrey Watzek House sits quietly, almost as a suspended moment of early modernism just minutes from downtown Portland. The Watzek House, designed by renowned Oregon architect John Yeon and built in 1937, is his masterpiece in wood and the precursor to Pacific Northwest Regional Modernism. The house is now owned by the University of Oregon’s College of Design.
This famous house has carefully articulated use guidelines — and designation as a National Historic Landmark and a local City of Portland landmark. But the house, like any aging structure, is showing its susceptibility to age and the Pacific Northwest elements. While a roof replacement is planned for the short term, the Watzek House requires a long-term preservation plan that takes a proactive approach to anticipating, planning for, and implementing maintenance and repairs that retain the historic building’s integrity. A comprehensive look at the building’s current condition, use, and its future is also long overdue. This need is the impetus behind a graduate-level historic preservation planning course taught by principal David Wark and associate Carin Carlson at the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture & Environment Historic Preservation Program.