Construction has begun on a contentious weatherproofing, renovation, and seismic retrofit plan led by architects DLR Group for the Michael Graves–designed Portland Building in Oregon. The $195-million plan started with the simple aim of halting persistent water infiltration issues. However, as the scale of that investment became clear, Portland authorities found that it made more sense to completely overhaul the tower so that it might be fully retrofitted for improved and adaptable long-term use. The project now aims to extend the life of Graves’s iconic work by 50 to 100 years, an effort that involves the controversial act of reskinning the 360,000-square-foot tower with a unitized aluminum rainscreen and adding a reinforced concrete shear wall through the building’s core. This wall will be supplemented with steel reinforcing to bolster the tower’s seismic resiliency, among other features. Built on a minuscule budget in 1982, Graves’s bold, competition-winning concept was value engineered into submission as it was erected. Cost-cutting efforts included the use of an exterior concrete structural system, an emphasis on humble materials, and the application of shallow-relief ornamentation, among other approaches. Shoddy detailing from the concrete wall system created the water infiltration issues, while also forcing Graves—who initially wanted to hang colorful stucco panels off the exterior walls in order to express the building’s iconic, historically evocative design—to instead opt for painting the bare concrete walls in colorful hues. The designers plan to encase the 15-story tower in a new insulated and waterproof wrapper while also maintaining—and in some cases, implementing for the first time—Graves’s original intentions for the building’s facade. The building’s dark, square-shaped windows, for example, were installed for energy conservation reasons against Graves’s wishes and will be replaced with insulated clear glass openings. Other changes include updating the tile patterns at the building’s base to a larger, 2-foot-by-2-foot grid, closer to what was originally proposed. The plan also includes closing in and reconfiguring some of the unsuccessful ground floor retail spaces and an old subterranean parking structure. The changes have been controversial within the preservation community, and local authorities have acknowledged the seemingly radical nature of the plan, but the restorative scheme is deemed necessary to fully extend the life of the structure and improve its functions as a public office building. Initial partial demolition of the facade elements began in March of this year and construction has now entered full swing as ground floor areas are closed off and the windows are removed. The project team expects to complete the renovations by 2020.
Posts tagged with "Portland Building":
When the City of Portland converted its 600 municipally-owned single-stall restrooms into all-gender facilities back in 2016, the change included converting two multi-stall, single-gendered restrooms on the second floor of Michael Graves’s iconic Portland Building to all-gender facilities, as well. The multi-stall, all-gender restroom change is part of a city pilot program the city developed in conjunction with the $195 million renovation to Graves’s postmodern masterpiece led by architects DLR Group. The city is pursuing various alternatives to single-gendered bathroom facilities as a result of the passage of a recent bill aimed at “removing barriers to a safe and inclusive workplace for employees… creating spaces which are welcoming to all visitors, and… treating all people with respect and dignity,” according to the resolution instituting the changes. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, originally one of the proponents behind the move toward all-gender bathrooms, was not happy with the result in the multi-stall facilities, however, Willamette Week reports. The Portland City Commission has been meeting in the Portland Building while their usual meeting facilities undergo repairs and, after an inspection, the commissioner became critical of the new arrangement, saying via email to other commissioners, “Being alone in the facility, I was able to stand on the commode in one stall and peer over the top of the divider into the next. It is also easy to peer under the dividers.” Fritz even threatened to refuse to attend the meetings unless something was done about the situation. As a result of the tussle, City authorities moved in March to convert one of the two multi-stall restrooms on the second floor of the Portland Building back to a single-gendered, women’s room. In exchange, one of the multi-stall women’s rooms on the ground floor was converted to an all-gender facility. The change left some, like City Commissioner Nick Fish—an early supporter of all-gender restrooms who originally brought the resolution to Council last year—happier than they were before. Fish told Willamette Week that having all-gender facilities on two floors was better than having them only on one. But still, as Fritz pointed out, the design of the all-gender facilities leaves much to be desired in terms of privacy. The controversy will likely serve as a valuable lesson as the city’s pilot program—and not to mention the renovations to the Portland Building—move forward. The move comes as President Trump has moved in recent weeks to strip students the right to use bathrooms that coordinate with their preferred gender identity and amid a wider cultural rift regarding the use of bathrooms resulting from the passage of North Carolina’s controversial and discriminatory HB 2—the Public Facilities Privacy and —which sought to make it illegal for cities to expand anti-discrimination protections in public places and workplaces in the state.
[Editor's Note: This post was written by Edward Gunts and James Russiello.] The Portland Building, once considered for demolition, will be spared from the wrecking ball and renovated, according to its architect. Michael Graves, the building’s architect, said in late November that city officials have decided to renovate it for continued use as municipal offices and have asked him to serve on a committee that will coordinate the redesign effort. AN spoke to Graves at a symposium organized by the Architectural League of New York. “It’s going to be saved,” Graves said. “They told me… They said they are saving the building and not only that but we want you to sit on a committee for the redesign.” Graves added that a time frame for the work has not been set but “I would imagine in the next year we’ll do something.” Dana Haynes, communications director for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, confirmed that the Portland Building is not under threat of demolition and will continue to house city employees. He said Portland's annual capital budget process will begin in January and city officials likely will begin to look at what resources the city might have to address flaws with the building at that time. Haynes said he was not aware that Graves had been asked to serve on a commission to help oversee work on the building, but he said he thought that made sense. Graves’ comments about the building’s status came two months after he made an impassioned plea during a public forum in Portland that the building be spared from the wrecking ball. He said that he believes the public debate over the building’s fate and his proactive preservation stance had a role in the outcome. “I think that was a big part of it,” he said. “They didn’t want to be known as the society that tore down the Portland Building.” City officials in Portland, Oregon have been exploring options for ways to address a series of flaws with the 32-year-old building, from leaks to unpleasant working conditions to questions about its ability to withstand an earthquake. More than one city commissioner has suggested demolition. The city’s internal business services division has recommended that the building be overhauled rather than scrapped. The mayor’s office has not officially disclosed what the city plans to do to address the building’s shortcomings. The 15-story building houses about 1,300 employees. Adjacent to City Hall, it is considered one of the first major America examples of Postmodernism. Constructed for about $25 million and opened in 1982, the Portland Building drew widespread attention for its classically-inflected exterior. Colored in blue, green, salmon and cream, it features a range of decorative flourishes as well as a statue called Portlandia, and it stands out in a city where the architecture is mostly sedate and often unadorned. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, the building also has been criticized for providing a dark, claustrophobic and generally unpleasant place to work and transact business with the city. There have been complaints about its small tinted windows that don’t let in much natural light, leaks, low ceilings, and an unimpressive lobby. To address the complaints, city officials have been pondering a series of options, ranging from renovating the building to moving the employees elsewhere and razing it. Cost estimates for repairing the building have ranged from $38 million to $95 million. According to The Oregonian newspaper, the high figure was based on analysis by the city’s Office of Management and Finance. The $95 million figure included the cost of relocating employees while work was underway and providing alternative space. Much of the cost would go to address structural issues such a making the building more capable of withstanding a major earthquake. The numbers have prompted some city commissioners to discuss the possibility that the building be sold or razed and replaced rather than have the city and its taxpayers spend more money to correct its shortcomings. The estimated cost of tearing the building down and building a new structure is $110 million to $400 million, according to finance office figures obtained by The Oregonian. Graves said that he doesn’t agree with the $95 million estimate for the renovation work and believes the problems can be addressed for much less. “It‘s not $90 million,” he said. “Somebody threw that out to see …if it would stick. It wasn’t true at all. It’s $38 million.” In the past, Graves has also said that although the window dimensions are fixed, it would be possible to replace the tinted glass with clear panes. Another way to keep costs down, he said, is renovating the building floor by floor, rather than emptying it out all at once and finding temporary space for the employees.
If several Portland city commissioners have their way Michael Graves' alternately loved and hated Portland Building (1982), now facing a $95 million renovation, will be torn down. One of the most famous examples of postmodern architecture in the United States, the 15-story, 31-year-old structure is known for its small square windows, exaggerated historical motifs, playful, varied materials, gaudy colors, and, of course, its cameo on the opening to the show Portlandia (also the name of the larger-than-life statue over the building's front door). While a few elements have been renovated in recent years, most of the building is in bad shape, and residents aren't exactly lining up to save it. Several city officials, writes the Atlantic Cities, have come out against making any more investments in it. And so the question is raised: Can a building be considered too important to tear down even if most people don't like it? Paul Goldberger, in his New York Times review of the building in 1982, called it "The most compelling architectural event of the year...It reminds us that the movement that has come to be known as Postmodernism has become vastly more than a curiosity. Now, at the end of 1982, it is unquestionably something that is having a genuine effect on the cityscape." The final decision will take months, but stay tuned to the fate of a building that everybody has an opinion about.
Peter Murray, of the New London Architecture center, together with a dozen architects and planners, is biking from Portland, Oregon to Portland Place in London, studying how cities are responding to the demand for better cycling infrastructure. He reports from the start of his ride. The Architect's Newspaper is USA media sponsor of the trip and will post periodic updates of these architects on bicycles. Portland is to America what Copenhagen is to Europe: everyone looks to it as an exemplar cycling city, and it has been continually improving its cycling infrastructure for more than 40 years - the first Bicycle Masterplan was published in 1973. As a result, 6 per cent of Portland commuters now bike to work and the Active Transport Alliance’s annual Bike Commute Challenge attracts over 700 participant companies. Cycling is undoubtably a part of Portland’s culture with its Neighbourhood Greenways, bicycle boulevards, routes across key bridges, safe routes to school and the Eastbank Esplanade - a wide path shared with walkers and joggers overlooking the Willamette river. The city was awarded platinum status by the League of American Bicyclists and acclaimed by Bicycling magazine as number one for cycle-friendliness. It was this reputation that drew us to start our mammoth ride in Portland. In the few days we were in the city preparing for our departure we were able to test out the quality of infrastructure and can report that cycling in Portland feels comfortable, enjoyable and safe, certainly in comparison to London. Although to a bunch of Brits it was not so much the infrastructure that made one feel safe, but the courtesy and calmness of Portland’s car drivers, all who could teach the London cabbie a thing or two about the etiquette of the road. As far as contemporary architecture goes, the city is only known on the other side of the Atlantic as the home of Michael Graves’s Portland Building. It is a building that is so familiar through a millionarchitectural photographs and Jencksian primers that one could draw it without reference, yet the promulgated images totally ignore the building’s context in the city street. Today it sits there comfortably enough, the exterior has worn better than many other POMO icons (although the interiors are low ceilinged and less generous than expected) and one has to rake through the cultural embers of the early 80s to remember what all the fuss was about. While we were in Portland, livable streets activist Mark Gorton rode into to town for a lecture. He’s spreading the message from New York to main streets across the US that it’s time to tame the automobile. Gorton seeks nothing less than an American Streets Renaissance. We were surprised, in the discussion after Gorton’s talk, that locals were concerned that Portland’s own plans for better streets were running out of steam. “Probably the worst thing that could have happened was the Platinum Award from the League of Bicyclists” said Chris DiStefano head of bike outfitters Rapha. “The politicians are now resting on their laurels but there is still a lot to be done.” And other cities are catching up. The next big city we get to on our trans America ride is Minneapolis, whose politicians are eager to knock Portland off its top spot. It’ll take us a month to get there - but we look forward to sampling the Twin Cities’s cycling infrastructure to see just how big a threat they are.