17 September 2014

[PDX] The Studios Of Portland: Retro-cool KGW-TV

I have said it before, and I'll say it again; TV stations are temples to me.

I'm sure it comes from too much Saturday morning TV and game shows and too much TV news when growing up. Once I saw pictures of Portland over the TV … well, it was game over for my sentimental heart.

Now that I've been a Portlander for more than half my life, it's surprising to realize that some things never get old to me. Like driving past TV stations … the technology, the energy. TV stations to me are like those purple lights to bugs. Irresistible.

I'm fortunate that I've gotten to tour some. Not all the ones I've wanted, of course; the day of the regular station tour … if ever there was one … is loooong past. But so far, KATU, Channel 2, KOPB, and KGW's Studio on the Square. KOIN, despite my love of its building, I've still not seen into, and the KGW main studio, still nada there too also. Hope springs eternal, at least within the limited bounds of a human's life.

But, as I said, I've never gotten tired of pulling past TV studios. And, if KOIN's is a mothership, then KGW's is Moonbase Alpha … kind of what you get if you let all the architecture in Gerry Anderson's TV shows collide and merge, but in the good way, totally in the good way.

You reach the KGW studios by travelling west on SW Jefferson Street going out of the city core. The two streets, SW Jefferson and SW Columbia, form an important legacy 1-way couplet; these two streets carried US Highway 26 before the Sunset Highway was built and connected to the inner I-5/I-405 freeway gauntlet. The streets still merge at SW 18th Avenue and proceed under the Vista Bridge to merge with the Sunset just west of the Vista Ridge Tunnel.

But I digress and get away with myself, and pass by the building just like you might, because it cleverly slots into its surrounds. The facade almost seems too small to contain a TV station. But it's there, on the north side of SW Jefferson Street, between SW 14th and 17th Avenues, just as you start to go downhill into the bowl of Goose Hollow.

The first thing you notice is the cowlings over the windows. When KGW's studios were built, they were obviously designing for a then-futuristic look. Well, it's gone through a futuristic phase through various fashion changes without altering, and now, it's come back around … delightfully retro-futuristic, riding the Ouroborous of architectural fashion.

This is one cool-ass building.

That mast at one time held a lit sign bearing the station's call-letters. The place you'll find station ID from street level is on a modest sign in front:

The new Gannett empire style has not yet trickled down to the sign in front, but I'm sure it's set to soon. It holds all the just-superceded logos, including the old KGW.com and a digital subchannel I must say we quite miss … KGW 24/7, kind of a super-local weather channel, cycling beautiful Oregon views from KGW's many remote cams with the occasional weather report and news-show recast. This was a good, great thing, and we miss it. Seriously.

The front of the studio has a classy touch no other broadcast center in Portland has … this wonderful semi-circular drive designed to drop anyone, in any limo (or personal car, even) in style, at the front door to the station. It really is quite hip, and moreso in person.

Did I want to walk up and look in that lobby? You bet! Did I? No! I respect boundaries. But I'm hoping that someday KGW gives a studio tour. I would so be there.

Now, I mentioned that it seemed a brief facade for a TV studio. It's what I've heard call a 'sleeper' … a little front leads to a big back side. In this case, the building is shaped like a reversed "L", with the tip of the base of the L peeking out onto Jefferson. The building extends back and then turns west. The back door is about a block north of Jefferson on SW 17th Avenue:

… which you can tell, because there's the window cowls up there.

Each edifice has things to recommend it. KGW's is just totally cool, because it has this funky futuristic design that became retro-future, and it wears it with cool self-confidence.

KGW doesn't need your approval. KGW just is. 

No comments: