Window licking in Portlandia!

By Richard White, Community Strategist, Ground3 Landscape Architects

Just back from Portlandia and have a few great window licking images to share with you.  For those of you who are wondering about the term "window licking" it is the literal english translation of the french words for "window shopping."  If you want more details on origin of this term you can checkout my "Window Licking in Paris" blog. 

Below are some samples from various streets of Portlandia:

  • Alberta Street
  • Hawthorne Blvd
  • N. Williams
  • Mississippi Ave.              
  • 23rd Ave

I must say that the people of Portland are the friendliest people we have ever met.  As soon as they knew we were from out of town they immediately wanted to know where were we from. Then then they quickly and genuinely said "Welcome to Portland!" In one case, a guy didn't know where Calgary was, but he was immediately on the internet looking it up.  

It was also refreshing to find that drivers were often prepared to stop and let pedestrians cross the street even if it wasn't at a corner or cross walk.  Made for a much more enjoyable pedestrian experience.   Keep Portland friendly should be their motto!

One of the interesting things about window licking in Portlandia is how long their shopping streets are. Both Alberta Street and Hawthorne Boulevard are more than 15 blocks long.  Just when you think you get to the end, you see people a few blocks up and find that there is yet another cluster of shops.  Our motto became "just one more block."  

Here is a small sample of the wonderful windows we found while wandering the streets of Portlandia.   

 

The Portland Art Museum was a wonderful surprise with its nice collection of First Nation artifacts as well as American modern and contemporary art.  There is a small sculpture court outside the entrance and the museum shop. This image captures the interplay of the Jaume Plensa scultpure (creator of Crown Fountain at Chicago's Millennium Park and Calgary Wonderland - see blogs).  I love the collage of imagery in this photograph, there is layer upon layer of imager that is fun to decipher.  There is a nice sense of people and place.

The Portland Art Museum was a wonderful surprise with its nice collection of First Nation artifacts as well as American modern and contemporary art.  There is a small sculpture court outside the entrance and the museum shop. This image captures the interplay of the Jaume Plensa scultpure (creator of Crown Fountain at Chicago's Millennium Park and Calgary Wonderland - see blogs).  I love the collage of imagery in this photograph, there is layer upon layer of imager that is fun to decipher.  There is a nice sense of people and place.

Found this window with fun colours of yarn displayed in a cool quirky manner that is made even more fun with the reflections of various people wander the street and getting on the bus.  Flaneuring at its best. 

I am a sucker for neon signage. Love the layers of visuals the neon signage, the images of what's inside and the street happenings.  Urbanism is about clutter and layers, not about being neat and tidy. 

I am a sucker for neon signage. Love the layers of visuals the neon signage, the images of what's inside and the street happenings.  Urbanism is about clutter and layers, not about being neat and tidy. 

Portland is know for its street food i.e. food carts that are clustered into pods on empty lots throughout the city and in downtown parking lots.  In this case the food cart has become a bricks and mortar restaurant.  The name is not Pig Out, but that is the brand.  

Portland is know for its street food i.e. food carts that are clustered into pods on empty lots throughout the city and in downtown parking lots.  In this case the food cart has become a bricks and mortar restaurant.  The name is not Pig Out, but that is the brand.  

Off the beaten path you will find Spark's Vacuums with its wonderful windows featuring what else vacuums of all types and colours.  Inside, there is even a museum, if you can call it that. Really just a nook with a bunch of old vacuums lying around. The collection is interesting and ironically the place is very dusty i.e. nobody has vacuumed it in months.  This is one of the few examples of "Keep Portland Weird"  that we found. 

Off the beaten path you will find Spark's Vacuums with its wonderful windows featuring what else vacuums of all types and colours.  Inside, there is even a museum, if you can call it that. Really just a nook with a bunch of old vacuums lying around. The collection is interesting and ironically the place is very dusty i.e. nobody has vacuumed it in months.  This is one of the few examples of "Keep Portland Weird"  that we found. 

In Old Town  you find lots of interesting local shops including this mystic shop with the wonderful neon question mark.  

In Old Town  you find lots of interesting local shops including this mystic shop with the wonderful neon question mark.  

Again in Old Town, there is a restored Fire Hall, that has the most amazing front entrance with this lovely stained glassed window.  Who needs to go to art museums when there are lovely works of art everywhere on the street if you are looking?

Again in Old Town, there is a restored Fire Hall, that has the most amazing front entrance with this lovely stained glassed window.  Who needs to go to art museums when there are lovely works of art everywhere on the street if you are looking?

Along Mississippi Avenue you find a wonderful array of local shops.  The one that caught Miss B and my attention was the light bulb shop with the wonderful windows.  Imagine a shop almost totally devoted to light bulbs. The windows also had a display of local lego creations that made everyone stop, look, linger and even chat. Just what every good window display should do.  We had a nice conversation with a couple who were visiting from Seattle.

Along Mississippi Avenue you find a wonderful array of local shops.  The one that caught Miss B and my attention was the light bulb shop with the wonderful windows.  Imagine a shop almost totally devoted to light bulbs. The windows also had a display of local lego creations that made everyone stop, look, linger and even chat. Just what every good window display should do.  We had a nice conversation with a couple who were visiting from Seattle.

Miss B loved the window with all the pencil sharpeners. It is not often she says to me "did you get a picture of that!"  I expect this will be here new screen saver.  

Miss B loved the window with all the pencil sharpeners. It is not often she says to me "did you get a picture of that!"  I expect this will be here new screen saver.  

Hawthorne Boulevard is a an amazing street of over 15 blocks of vintage clothing, mid-century modern furniture, the world's most upscale Goodwill thrift store, Powell's Annex and quirky shops.  At first I thought this was a sheep shearing shop, but then realized it was a dog.  Maybe Portland is weirder than I first thought.  

Hawthorne Boulevard is a an amazing street of over 15 blocks of vintage clothing, mid-century modern furniture, the world's most upscale Goodwill thrift store, Powell's Annex and quirky shops.  At first I thought this was a sheep shearing shop, but then realized it was a dog.  Maybe Portland is weirder than I first thought.  

Hawthorne Blvd is the mecca for vintage clothes shopping.  Some have great animated windows like this one. 

Hawthorne Blvd is the mecca for vintage clothes shopping.  Some have great animated windows like this one. 

While the sign says "shoe shine" the store really is a barber shop.  Portland has lots of the '50s and '60s barbershops with a modern twist.  I can see this becoming a trend in other cities in North America. 

While the sign says "shoe shine" the store really is a barber shop.  Portland has lots of the '50s and '60s barbershops with a modern twist.  I can see this becoming a trend in other cities in North America. 

Like I said, there at a number of mid-century modern barber shops in Portland which create a nice link between the past and the present. 

You can learn a lot by wandering the streets of any city.  You can discouver their local culture if you explore the streets outside of the city centre. In the case of Portlandia I would recommend that tourist spend at least a half a day exploring Alberta Street of Hawthorne Boulevard if you want to experience the real city.  I even suggest you venture off into the residential neighbourhoods next the retail streets to see the homs and the local parks.  While downtown may be the face of the city, it's soul is often in the older neighbourhoods.