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Randy Gragg, “An Architecture of Many Scales: The Buildings and Landscapes of John Yeon”

Few architects have influenced so many facets of a region as John Yeon
(1910-1994). Yeon is most widely remembered as an architect, in particular for
a series of innovative houses—most prominently, the 1937 Aubrey Watzek
House—that drew an international spotlight to regional modernism in the Pacific
Northwest. Yet he wielded equal vision and influence as a landscape designer,
planner, conservationist, historic preservationist, and urban activist.

Largely self taught, and working independently, Yeon designed distinctive
buildings, shaped precedent-stretching gardens, and fought to preserve some of
the Northwest’s most treasured vistas—the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon
Coast, Olympic National Park. Yet, whether crafting a cabinet pull, shaping a
roof line or a garden, or lobbying to save coastal or gorge vista, Yeon saw
both design and conservation as visual arts.

The UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts is the steward of Yeon’s two
most far-reaching designs: the National Historic Landmark Watzek House and The
Shire, a 78-acre picturesque landscape in the Columbia River Gorge, as well as
the 1950 Cottrell House.

Randy Gragg served as the director of the UO John Yeon Center since 2013.
He is the president of the Halprin Landscape Conservancy now overseeing a $5
million public/private partnership to restore the landmark Portland Open Space
Sequence; and the vice president of Pioneer Courthouse Square where he
developed the Square’s first artist-in-residence program. He served as
architecture columnist for The Oregonian for 17 years and was editor in chief
of Portland Monthly magazine for four years. He is a regular contributor to
Oregon Public Broadcasting. He was a 2006 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s
Graduate School of Design and a 1995 National Arts Journalism Fellow at
Columbia University. He holds an MFA from the University of Washington.

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