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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Good News for Portland

Posted by on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 8:43 AM

It was completed in 1982 and is considered a masterpiece of a movement in architecture that is best forgotten...

The building does have this virtue: Its substance and appearance are one. Meaning, Graves' building is at once a bad idea and badly built...
Michael Graves' seminal postmodern work the Portland Public Services Building is under threat of demolition, following news that the 32-year-old building needs more than $95 million worth of repairs.

Blame for the building's many structural problems is often placed on the tight budget with which it was made. But my feeling is that the idea and not the budget is the source of the rot.


Comments (27) RSS

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Can we please demolish Boston City Hall, already? As well as anything built by Le Corbusier.
Posted by Joel_are on January 15, 2014 at 8:52 AM · Report this
Speaking as a native portlander - sweet lord, raze the thing
Posted by eptified on January 15, 2014 at 9:02 AM · Report this
Wow. That's an ugly building. Looks like something out of a mediocre 1930's sci-fi serial. ("Flash! Ming has captured Princess Aura!") Not sure why it needs $95 million in repairs, but I guess this is one case where beauty (or lack thereof) isn't just skin-deep.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on January 15, 2014 at 9:04 AM · Report this
Dr. Z 4
Good riddance to this eyesore.
Posted by Dr. Z on January 15, 2014 at 9:05 AM · Report this
I think this is a great building. It's wonderfully interesting to look at and it would be a tragedy to see it demolished.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on January 15, 2014 at 9:05 AM · Report this
Posted by colinrichardson on January 15, 2014 at 9:12 AM · Report this
gttrgst 7
Hollow it out and use for the Portland-Seattle High Speed Rail Terminal.
Posted by gttrgst on January 15, 2014 at 9:18 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 8
@6, wow, even by 1997 it was so bad they were thinking of abandoning the building altogether? Great find.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on January 15, 2014 at 9:21 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 9
$100 million to replace, $95 million to repair. it's toast, and i won't miss it.

however, water, not ideas, is the source of the rot. this is the PNW after all.
Posted by Max Solomon on January 15, 2014 at 9:29 AM · Report this
What would they do with the Portlandia statue? I hope they could find someplace that would make it more visible.
Posted by Dink on January 15, 2014 at 9:37 AM · Report this
RE @10, also curious here as to what might happen to Portlandia (the statue not the show).
Posted by morealex on January 15, 2014 at 9:44 AM · Report this
i'm officially old. i remember when this was completed. i thought it was awesome.

i was a little kid then. i liked the building, mostly because i saw it from the sidewalk, not from a distance. mom used to take me to the deli there, and i liked the deli, so maybe that's why i have fond memories. plus, i love portlandia. she's hawt.

whatevs, push it in the river, i don't care. pretty much everything that i grew up with in portland is gone or mis-remembered.
Posted by deepconcentration on January 15, 2014 at 9:46 AM · Report this
mkyorai 13
Ugly fucker. And holy shit, it sounds from @6's report like it is as miserable on the inside as it is fugly on the outside.
Posted by mkyorai on January 15, 2014 at 9:46 AM · Report this
I have proposed in the past that the entire field of architecture is essentially a sham, and an excuse for wasting money. If we required that all public buldings had a design life of 100 years, and we reclaimed any design/architect fees for buildings that fail in less than 50 years we would get much better buildings. (completely reasonable, given how many buildings of that age are still perfectly functional in our downtown cores all over the world.) It would also go a long way toward making our building industries greener. I think the key to this sort of design is allowing for heavier construction/materials and more 'non-program space' as it is called in the industry.
Posted by Chris Jury on January 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 15
That building is so bad, it's good. Too bad about the rot.

I don't recall noticing the thing when visiting Portland. I was half-a-dozen blocks from there on Sunday. If this post had gone up on Friday, I'd have gone to gawk at it.

@9 The story says $110 *to* $400 million to replace. That's not quite the same. Whether that high figure includes some sort of upgrade isn't stated.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on January 15, 2014 at 10:01 AM · Report this
I am older- old enough to have been subscribing to architectural magazines at the time, to have been working in the field, and talking daily to architects.
It was not "considered a masterpiece" by anybody but Graves and a few writers being paid to write about it at the time.
It was pretty much universally considered to be weak, and not in the league of other, better, architects who were lumped in the same made up category of "PoMo"- a category that was made up by critics, not architects, and really was only believed in by critics. All 5 of em.
At that time, most people who were paying attention were much more interested in Stanley Saitowitz, James Stirling, Ricardo Bofill, or Antoine Predock, all of whom were tarred with that same PoMo brush, but most of whom have endured past the latest trend in made up movements by critics.
Posted by CATSPAW666 on January 15, 2014 at 10:06 AM · Report this
Wait a second here. Yesterday we were all supposed to drive and repair old cars rather than buy new lest we let the market "tell us what to do" and today we're advocating demolition of a building?

What gives folks? Can't we be just a little bit consistent here?
Posted by Solk512 on January 15, 2014 at 10:24 AM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 18
The building is awful. But I’ve always liked the scale and perspective of the chick with the pitchfork squatting over the front door.
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on January 15, 2014 at 10:49 AM · Report this
Fnarf 19
@9, if only there was some way to build buildings in a wet climate that can last longer than 30 years. Oh, well, I guess there's no way to do that.

I too remember when this went up, and how exciting it was, and I also remember to the day when the gloss came off of postmodernism (when I saw a car crash into a shitty building in Boston and saw the skin crack off and expose the nothingness underneath). Michael Graves in particular is a walking disaster in every field, whose teapots are as terrible as his buildings.

@17, you're stupid. It doesn't make sense to fix up your old car if it costs more than a new one; the point is, it doesn't. Buildings, if they are as shitty as this one, are different.

@1, the saddest thing about Boston City Hall isn't the building, or the plaza, but the fact that Scollay Square, if it had survived, would today be the most exciting and desirable neighborhood in the country, and would also be a tremendous tax base for the city, instead of a tax-free 8-acre moon crater.
Posted by Fnarf on January 15, 2014 at 11:05 AM · Report this
@19 No shit it doesn't make sense to repair a car when it would be cheaper/safer/more reliable to buy a newer car. The whole point of yesterday's whiny post about cars was that under no circumstances should you ever buy newer because it "supported a market that doesn't help the environment", regardless of those issues you rightly bring up.

So I want to know why the tune has changed today. I want to know why buying a newer car yesterday is "environmentally wasteful" but demolishing a building today is perfectly fine. I'm not arguing that it's a bad idea in and of itself, I just want Charles here to exhibit some intellectual consistency.
Posted by Solk512 on January 15, 2014 at 11:18 AM · Report this
@19 - Thank you for saying what I wanted to say about Graves, more succinctly. He was the product of his own PR machine, which successfully convinced many people that his designs were good and important when they were in fact trivialities.
Posted by Calpete on January 15, 2014 at 11:23 AM · Report this
Dougsf 22
I sort of appreciate it's terribleness, but not enough to suggest keeping it. What's crazy is that's actually one of Grave's better designs.
Posted by Dougsf on January 15, 2014 at 12:33 PM · Report this
Dougsf 23
Posted by Dougsf on January 15, 2014 at 12:34 PM · Report this
Fnarf 24
If you're wondering what I meant about teakettles, see…

Stovetop kettles are dumb to begin with, but if you must, you can get a better one with better design and no resemblance to Hitler for less money.
Posted by Fnarf on January 15, 2014 at 12:43 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 25
I guess it's too much for Mudede to actually, you know, explain why he thinks the building was a bad idea. We're just supposed to infer brilliance from his observation.
Posted by kk in seattle on January 15, 2014 at 10:14 PM · Report this
ragold 26
It's a stately architectural oddity with a surface for a frantic imagination. It will be missed.
Posted by ragold on January 15, 2014 at 10:45 PM · Report this
It may be horrible, but it's the only truly famous architecture in Portland.
Posted by ian on January 16, 2014 at 2:19 PM · Report this

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