University of Oregon Field School Stays Close to Home

12 Oct 2018 2:30 AM | Christine R Henry

by James Buckley

A UO student cleans the back patio stones at the Cottrell house under the watchful eye of the instructors.The University of Oregon Pacific Northwest Field School (PNWFS) tried something new this year: after 24 years of rotating locations among many beautiful historic sites throughout the Pacific Northwest, the program stayed home this summer.  Graduate students in the Historic Preservation Program spent the second week of September exploring and repairing Portland’s Cottrell House, a 1950 regional modernist home designed by John Yeon and owned by the University of Oregon.  Yeon, a designer and environmentalist who received little formal architectural training, built this four-bedroom home on a heavily forested plot high in Portland’s Southwest Hills.  Resetting stones after experiments with matching the mortar.The Cottrell House was the last house Yeon designed and it is across the street from his first - the renowned Watzek House (1937). The Cottrell House, designed for a family of five, is a departure from some of his earlier work but still encapsulates character defining Yeon features such as the use of native materials, framing and interplay with the surrounding landscape, and wide over-hanging eaves that create protected outdoor spaces. Key characteristics of this building deeply influenced regional and national architects designing residential structures in the 1960s.

UO students, working under the direction of Visiting Professor Chad Randl and graduate student Project Coordinator Allison Geary, worked closely with regional preservation practitioners to address conservation needs.  The National Park Service provided instructors from Ebey’s Landing, WA and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to assist in projects such as stabilizing and preserving a stone patio and steps, testing and replacing deteriorated exterior paneling, refinishing a teak handrail, and resurfacing and repainting louvers. UO student Brandon Geiger removes the original teak handrail for restoration.In addition to these hands-on projects, students learned about historic mortars, documentation, cultural landscape analysis, wood identification, and wood pathology. Local preservation professionals offered lectures each evening and students took a day long field trip to visit historic sites in the Portland area. Marcy Cottrell-Houle visits her childhood home and shows her father’s film of the house construction.A highlight of the week was the visit of former residents Marcy and John Cottrell-Houle, who joined the closing barbecue to view the completed work, share stories, and show a delightful home movie of the house under construction.

The Cottrell House was a new experience for the Field School program, providing a chance to learn about modern construction and materials and add to the range of structures the Field School approaches.  The PNWFS is supported by a consortium of state agencies in conjunction with the National Park Service and the University of Oregon.  For more information please visit

© Vernacular Architecture Forum

For more information or questions contact
the secretary or the webmaster.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software