During the era of Frank Lloyd Wright, John Yeon became known as one of the founders of the Northwest Regional style of Modernism.
An architectural icon of the pacific northwest, Yeon’s (pronounced ‘yawn’) life and work are celebrated in the Portland Art Museum’s new exhibit, Quest For Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and Collections of John Yeon.
“Regional architecture does not happen simply, automatically, or unselfconsciously… It results from deliberate aesthetic resistance to ubiquitous popular fashions. It will be done by people and for people who love landscapes and are literate in architecture.” Unlike most architects, Yeon was primarily self-taught and he lacked a long list of degrees or an expansive portfolio, but that didn’t keep people from seeing his potential. At the age of 26, he completed his first residential structure, the 1937 Watzek House which the National Register for Historic Places describes as “the most pivotal and famous example of modern domestic architecture in the pacific northwest.” Combining his passion for Japanese aesthetic and rich knot-free Douglas fir wood textures, Watzek House launched the Portland native into a spotlight.
As a visionary, he planned structures using what would eventually be called sustainable materials. He notably integrated conservation and urban activism through his work. This side of Yeon on will be prominent throughout the exhibit. Alongside models and schematics of his work, the exhibit will include original drawings including a vehement 1934 scheme for Timberline Lodge, along with his pieces of his personal collection of art and furniture. Another highlight of the exposition is a high-definition time lapsed video of the changing seasons at The Shire, a 78-acre waterfront site in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. Yeon saved this area from development and shaped it into a beautifully designed landscape.
John Yeon’s work has impacted the style and design of the Pacific Northwest we all know and love. All of us at Hip would like to invite you to visit Quest For Beauty at the Portland Art Museum now running through Sept 3rd. Take a break from the heat, enjoy some air conditioning and get inspired by the modern design of one of Portland’s most renowned architects.