The Portland Art Museum Rothko Pavilion has gone in front of the Historic Landmarks Commission to receive Design Advice. The project would add a new above grade structure to link the museum’s main building to the Mark Building. The project is being designed by Portland-based Hennebery Eddy Architects and Chicago-based Vinci Hamp Architects.
The museum’s campus campus consists of two buildings. The main building was designed by architect Pietro Belluschi, and completed in 1932. In 1970 Belluschi completed an addition to the north side of the building. The addition originally housed the Museum Art School, the predecessor to PNCA, and is now used for the museum shop and cafe, the Native American art galleries, and the Northwest art galleries. The main building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.
To the north of the main building is the Mark Building, which was originally built as known as the Masonic Temple. The museum agreed to buy the temple in 1990. A series of projects designed by Ann Beha Architects of Boston were completed to link the Masonic Temple to the main building. Construction of the Whitsell Auditorium, located beneath the plaza in between the two buildings, was completed in 2000. A renovation of the Mark Building, which now houses the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art, was completed in 2005.
While the two buildings are connected underground, few visitors reach the contemporary art galleries in the Mark Building. At ground level and above the buildings are separated by a plaza. The plaza was formerly part of SW Madison St, however the right-of-way was vacated by the city council in 1968. The council ordinance that granted the land to the Art Museum and Masonic Temple Association required that an 8′ wide pedestrian path be maintained on the alignment of the former street.
The four story Rothko Pavilion will create a new main entry to the museum at the existing plaza. In response to earlier community concerns that the project would block pedestrian access, the pavilion now incorporates an exterior passageway at the ground level, maintaining the pedestrian connection between SW Park and 10th Ave.
The pavilion will link the galleries in the two buildings at levels 1.5, 2, 3 and 4. New gallery space will be created in levels 2 and 4 of the pavilion, and in level 1.5 of the Mark Building.
The sculpture court facing SW 10th Ave will be redesigned to be more open to the public realm than is currently the case. As a way to draw people through the site, the new paving would extend to the edge of new curb extensions proposed on SW Park and 10th.
The Museum’s main loading dock is currently located at the plaza between the two buildings. As part of the project the loading dock will be relocated to SW Jefferson St, with new gallery space above it at level 2 of the main building.
The project went in front of the Historic Landmarks Commission to receive Design Advice three times in total: in April and August 2018; and most recently on January 14th 2019. As noted in the Third Summary Memo the Commission supported the glazed language of the design, as “the most appropriate and simplest solution with regard to exterior cladding of the additions”. During the three meetings there was significant discussion about the location of the new loading dock, however the Commission ultimately agreed with the applicants that the location on SW Jefferson would be least harmful to the historic buildings and to the public realm. Among other outstanding issues, the Commission continued to urge the design team to carefully study the pedestrian accessway in order to make it “the best it can be”; “to be spectacular”.
The Rothko Pavilion is currently scheduled to go in front of the Historic Landmarks Commission for a Type III Historic Resource hearing on March 11th.
The original Pietro Belluschi entrance should remain a visitors entrance (in addition to the new entry), as it is more of an obvious entrance from various vantage points. It would also, arguably, remain the most dignified entry to the museum. The grand, original main entrances have been restored at recently renovated art museums like the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, even as additional, newer entrances have been constructed.
First, I agree that the original entrance should be maintained. It so diminishes the Belluschi building to have the entrance permanently shut.
Second, while the SW Jefferson side is really the only option for a new loading dock, the proposed ungainly appendage seems so wrong. I hope that the Design Commission can press for a better loading dock design.