My brother Matthew and I are both slight nerds when it comes to Modern architecture, with the capital M. Our most recent excursion was to the Mount Angel Abbey Library, designed by Alvar Aalto. About an hour outside of Portland, The Mount Angel Abbey is nestled in the bucolic rolling farmland of Oregon. Surrounded by more expected neo-gothic structures of the monastery, the almost unassuming library gives little away from its elegantly simple one story entry. The interior sharply contrasts with a soaring 3 story vaulted interior. It was completed in 1970, and Aalto and his wife also designed all of the furniture.
If you go, be sure to make another stop at the nearby Oregon Gardens to see the Gordon House, the only home in Oregon designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Gordon House is the largest Usonian home built by Wright. At just over 2000 sq ft, it is quite small compared to many of his other residences, but his use of space makes it seem much larger. Originally designed for a farmer and his family, the original owners lived in the home for over 30 years.
The buildings are both stunning, but the amazing part are the staff at both who are passionate about the structures and their stories. If you find yourself in Portland, this is a worthy day trip.