It’s time to follow up on my earlier piece about the Portland Building. Peter Meijer and I publically debated the fate of the building for the first time over a year ago, at the Docomomo Symposium in Florida. Since then we’ve reprised our face-off three times in front of live audiences – in Portland and Hood River – and we had the pleasure of sparring gently on the radio courtesy of KBOO’s ArtFocus show as part of a longer program that addressed a couple of other local landmarks too (listen here). We’ve made a point to engage the audience in the discussion whenever we can, and along this journey I’ve learned a lot of things about the building and people’s attitudes towards it.
The Portland Building is particularly detested by the people who have to work in it, despite the City’s best efforts to improve working conditions there. In my opinion, the best way to change this state of affairs is to change the building. Its occupants need better access to daylight and views. The windows, or peoples’ relationship to them, need to change. They could be bigger, have improved glass, and there could be MORE of them. The building also fails to enliven the city in an active way, and the ground floor clearly needs to be improved – the loggia needs to be connected to the sidewalk in more locations or the covered areas could simply be enclosed to provide more useful retail space at the perimeter of the building.
I’ve moved on from demanding the razing of the Portland Building but I continue to believe that it should either be made into a humane working environment for the City employees who have little control over their workplace, or it should be a candidate for adaptive re-use into something else. And I dearly believe that the best way to figure out what to do with it is to involve its architect – Michael Graves – in the conversation.
What does Mr Graves think?