Is the New Portland Building Still the Portland Building?




On a current afternoon out of doors the Portland Building, the big copper Portlandia statue sitting atop its entrance changed into still encased in scaffolding—the marine goddess’s outstretched hand poking the threshold of its white plastic sheathing—as a part of an ongoing $195 million upkeep and reconstruction.
Despite being a famous landmark designed by way of architect Michael Graves, and one of the first foremost Postmodernist buildings in America, the constructing (owned by way of the City of Portland) become ultra-cost-engineered while it becomes built within the early 1980s, and leaked almost from the begin. A few years ago, the metropolis determined maintenance become essential if it became to have any purposeful future.

Although it’s on agenda to reopen at the cease of the year, an audit critical of the renovation manner is assuring that this reputedly always-arguable layout story provides any other bankruptcy. City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero determined a loss of transparency as the finances has grown to $214 million, and that equity grants to enhance the variety of the development body of workers had not been spent.
Perhaps most notably, the June 12 audit stated the metropolis become “on the right track to satisfy the baseline maintenance goals but will fall short of other aspirations.” In specific, “the outside layout chosen to deal with water leaks will bring about the circa-1982 building’s delisting from the National Register of Historic Places.”
That certainly remains to be seen, for de-list is a prolonged process that might simplest commence after production is whole. But the audit is a reminder of how lots this foremost work of Postmodernist architecture is being converted. Indeed, the metropolis’s most identified constructing has now been given an entirely new facade in a special cloth. An aluminum over-cladding will completely cowl the unique painted concrete (which became not removed as it serves in a structural potential).

The Portland Building’s darkly shaded home windows, which contrasted towards the cream-colored facade paint, had been changed with clear glass to feature natural mild on the indoors. Its ground-ground loggias, intended for retail, will now grow to be a part of the foyer, glassed-in for similarly light.
While the modified glass unmistakably alters the constructing’s outside, it’s the over-cladding that has specifically drawn preservationists’ ire—a lot as the adjustments proposed in 2017 by means of structure company Snøhetta for the postmodern AT&T Building in New York City did (those were later nixed as the constructing become given landmark status via New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission).
“If you cowl the man or woman-defining capabilities, how is that historic renovation?” stated Kate Kearney, president of the Oregon bankruptcy of Docomomo, an enterprise that advocates for the upkeep of the modern structure. “Personally, I don’t assume that holds up. I just discover it very strange that these high examples of an architecture movement are certainly being altered or completely erased from our architectural historical past.”

The audit’s launch protected a written response from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler which disputed some of the economic findings, arguing that the fairness grants had been always intended for release on the end of the undertaking and bringing up a series of City Council briefings on budget adjustments. But the matter of the Portland Building’s National Register list and capacity de-list is left unaddressed.
When asked whether there was any specific requirement that the listing itself be maintained, auditor Tenzin Gonta, who works under Caballero, noted challenge facts “that reference ancient integrity being a part of the scope. Each references the list on the National Register as history approximately the building however now not a renovation of that fame as a selected intention.”

So is ancient integrity (extensively described) the metropolis’s mandate for the renovation of the Portland Building, or did it have an obligation to hold the National Register listing through conforming to federal renovation standards, which warn against changes to a building’s ancient features and cloth?
In reality, the City of Portland in no way sought National Register reputation for the building from the National Park Service. The building was nominated in 2011 through a neighborhood architect, Peter Meijer. “It became by no means a goal of the mission to keep its National Register listing,” stated Kristin Wells of the City of Portland’s Office of Management and Finance, contradicting the auditor’s locating.
Preserving the integrity of Michael Graves’s layout was very tons on the city’s mind, Wells says, with one caveat: “We had to fix the exterior leaking hassle once and for all. Keeping punched windows in concrete shell units us up for leaks again. At the end of the day, you’re nonetheless relying on caulking and re-caulking each five to 10 years. We do now not need to be back in this case again.”
A third-party session in 2016 with the aid of Michael D. Lewis, of Ohio-primarily based Facade Forensics, supported the looser technique. In a letter to the metropolis, Lewis argued the concrete facade and its punched windows “couldn’t be corrected with the aid of healing-kind maintenance restricted to conventional preservation techniques.”




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