DLR Group's 'Reconstruction' of the Portland Building
Ever since the drawings were unveiled in 1980, the Portland Building in Oregon has drawn plaudits and catcalls. Vincent Scully commended the finished work in 1982 for the way the “detailing and color relate to the pre-International Style buildings in the city,” and its attempt “to revive the urban fabric.” But, as the pop-star building glowed brightly in the pages of Time, Newsweek, and People, the client, the City of Portland – and its 1,500 employees working inside – suffered.
The Portland Building in Portland Oregon by DLR Group. Photo by James Ewing.
DLR Group’s approach and the potential consequences foreground a fundamental question in the preservation of landmark Modernist and Postmodernist buildings, many made with materials that fail, are discontinued, or fall short of today’s performance demands: what’s historic – the building with its original materials, or the design concept?