Quest for Beauty

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LEVER designed “Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and Collections of John Yeon,” a temporary exhibition commissioned by the Portland Art Museum. Working closely with curator Randy Gragg, the firm created a design that traces the life, career, and enduring legacy of one of Oregon’s most influential architects, John Yeon. Best known for the Aubrey Watzek House, Yeon’s work brought international attention to regional modernism in the Pacific Northwest. He is also remembered as a conservationist, preserving treasured landscapes such as the Columbia River Gorge, parts of the Oregon Coast, and Olympic National Park.

The exhibition surveys Yeon’s work through a procession of galleries organized around distinct themes, from his origins as a young architect, to inventive explorations with plywood homes, to his late “palace style” designs which anticipated Postmodernism. “Quest for Beauty” includes original drawings, photography by mid-century masters, specially commissioned models and a video installation, as well as art and furnishings from Yeon’s personal collection. The exhibition’s new casework and seating is made from a next generation material called Mass Plywood, subtly referencing Yeon’s own innovative use of plywood in architecture.

A model of John Yeon's iconic Aubrey Watzek House. The exhibition includes several models of Yeon's work which were commissioned for the exhibition. 

Exhibition Plan

The exhibition weaves together the story of Yeon's life as an architect, conservationist, and art collector. The plan is organized around a series of themes—from his early inspiration and training to an analysis of his major stylistic explorations.

Mass Plywood Casework and Furnishings

LEVER designed the exhibition's custom casework including a bench and series of plywood tables made from a new material called Mass Plywood. The wooden casework, together with the Mass Plywood Pavilion which was designed for the museum's courtyard, pay homage to John Yeon's experimental plywood homes.