W ILSONVILLE SPOKESMAN, August 14, 2001, page 2

Drawing upon History: Former Wilsonville teacher sketches and learns from old buildings


When old buildings talk, Alice Cotton listens. And she passes along what they have to say about us, our community and our history.
Cotton has authored a new book called "When Buildings Speak." And this week, she'll give a lecture on unique buildings in the Portland area, including one in the Wilsonville area.

Cotton will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2 at the Clackamas County Visitor Information Center, 29600 S.W. Park Place. The presentation, which is free, is being held in conjunction with the Wilsonville Community Walk, set for Aug. 11.

Both events will benefit the Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society. The group would like to establish a permanent historical museum in Wilsonville. Donations to the historical society will be accepted at the lecture.

"I want to inspire people about the preservation of historical architecture, to get them excited and carry that energy to the historical society's project." Cotton said.

The historical society is trying to raise money for a building to house local historical artifacts.

Attendees can learn about Oregon history through the buildings Cotton has drawn. They will learn about architecture as an art form, what it means and how these buildings can answer some profound questions about ourselves, Cotton said.

"These buildings came from an era when people still cared about the space the buildings represented," Cotton said. "They connect us with our past which deepens our feelings about our community."

Cotton expressed her concern about the lack of a feeling of community in the world at this time, and she explained the old buildings could help bring back that sense of community.

One building in Cotton's book is the Barlow House on Highway 99E in Barlow. The Barlow home has very important links to Oregon history, according to Cotton.

"In my world, I see there's a problem," said Cotton. "I want this (architecture) in my world. These buildings show you and tell you how it should be. It's important for people to save this history and be reminded of it, so we can make a difference in our environment."

There are a variety of ways in which buildings communicate, Cotton said. They communicate visually, by touch, mathematically, through their presence or feeling. and on a historical level. Artistically, they communicate through visual and sculptural mediums. With sounds they communicate through auditory senses and through olfactory senses with their smells.

Cotton began drawing historical architecture when she lived in New Orleans and began concocting pen and ink drawings of local buildings. She was coached there by local artists, and sold her original work.

"I just started drawing the buildings because they were there, and they were so beautiful," she said. "New Orleans is so rich with old, evocative architecture."

Cotton has taken architecture graphics classes at Portland Community College.

Some local residents may know her, because she taught fifth grade for eight years at Wilsonville Primary School. During that time. she got the idea of mixing art and math for the children. "That started me thinking about architecture again," she said. "I got excited, so I took the idea to the math learning center at Portland State University and started a class for teachers. It was called “Artistic Expression of the Mathematical Idea."

She started looking for examples of buildings to inspire creativity.

"They're here. They're all over, but they're hard to find, so I went to look for them," she said.
She started creating a book. With 30 rolls of film, she picked twenty historic buildings in the Portland area, conducted some research and wrote something about each one. She included facts and her own perspective of each building. That has become "When Buildings Speak."
Working on the book helped Cotton realize why architecture was so intriguing to her.

"I finally figured it out," she said. "I researched the roots of architecture, and I discovered at one time art, math and science were all one thing--like I believed it should be in the classroom."