a tale of a few cities

Portland & the Birth of Post Modernism

Posted in architecture, Post Modernism by petercombe on June 4, 2011
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Michael Graves’ 29-year-old Portland Building, a government office building in downtown Portland, Oregon was hailed at the time of its construction by architectural theorist Charles Jencks as the birth of Post-Modernism. I owned a copy of Jenks’ The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, 4th Edition, 1984., the cover of which featured Graves’ building.
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I just so happen to be in Portland at the moment. It seems my visit has proven to be of rather good timing as the building is currently at the center of a local & heated municipal political debate. On my arrival Thursday, the Portland Tribune featured an article Love it or hate it, the Portland Building has a date with history, that mentions the Portland Building’s design could earn it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Before the Portland Building can be nominated to the national register, however, it must overcome a hurdle in criteria, which usually limits the honor to properties that have been around for more than 50 years. The nomination report says the relatively young building should still be considered for the honor because “it is exceptionally important as one of the first physical manifestations of a new architectural style coming on the heels of the Modern movement.” The article places the building in a national level of historical importance when really its level of importance figures at an international level.
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The city should reward the building the title of Historic Place then proceed with a building overhaul. The exterior is looking rather faded, the ground level shops and businesses are nondescript. Much of the architect’s original plans for the building (see above), were vetoed pre-construction by city authorities, most notably the garlands that appear on two of  the building’s facades, and the cluster of public arcades and shops on the rooftop. Reincorporating those elements would cement The Portland Building’s position as an international architectural milestone.
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Portland Building >
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