a.k.a. First National Bank Tower, First Interstate Bank Tower, Wells Fargo Tower
Luckman & Associates, 1972
At 544 feet tall, the Wells Fargo Center is the tallest building in both the city and the state. Described by writer Ivan Doig as "huge and sleek and featureless," this tower's construction provided Portland with the political impetus to change its city zoning laws. So the good news is that height restrictions prevented future downtown behemoths from crashing the party. But unfortunately, this one had already snuck in the door, and it's been clogging up the buffet line ever since.
* The Wells Fargo Center was voted the city's most despised building in a 2006 survey of local architects by the Portland Tribune.
For the bulk of the 20th century, the prevailing tradition was for big corporations to house their headquarters in downtown high-rises. (Today this is a less common practice, as companies often opt for low, sprawling suburban "campuses" with better parking and lower rental rates, as Nike has done in Beaverton.) The basic rule of "corporate tower chic" was: the higher the rise, the more elevated the corporation's prestige. So although Portland is now the most sustainable city in the nation, "bigger is better" was an attitude that was alive and well here in the 1970s.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat currently ranks the tallest building in the world as the 1,671-foot Taipei 101 in Taiwan. (For national comparison, the Empire State Building is 1,250 feet high.) The Wells Fargo Tower is about the 415th highest building in the world. Hoo ha.
With the Wells Fargo Center, the aim was to make as big a building as could be squeezed onto one of Portland's homey little blocks. Setbacks? Forget it. No room! Another reason this tower is such a conspicuous eyesore is that it's so close to City Hall. The dignified seat of city government looks like a mushroom, utterly overshadowed by corporate power. Thus, the passerby can choose to gaze up in awe, or keep her eyes averted from the inhospitable spectacle. (The support building to its east is similarly brutal.)
The Wells Fargo Center has been so consistently vilified over the years that it slightly lessens the pleasure of hurling brickbats at it now. But here's one anyway: the marble on its flared base is 1/16th of an inch thick, pasted onto metal lathing. This thin veneer may be symbolic of the depth of the building's artistic ambitions.Less Text