Dezeen Magazine

Michael Graves' Portland Building faces threat of demolition

Michael Graves' Portland Building faces threat of demolition

News: 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.

Also known as the Portland Building, the 15-storey municipal office block in Portland, Oregon, was completed by American firm Michael Graves & Associates in 1982 and is credited with being one of the first major buildings of postmodernism, yet its demolition is one of several options under consideration by city officials following a recent analysis of the building's condition.

According to the assessment, a complete overhaul of the building would require $95 million (£58 million), while replacing it or relocating could cost anything between $110 million and $400 million (£67 million and £243 million).

Michael Graves' Portland Building faces threat of demolition

The Portland Building has been plagued with major structural problems and defects ever since its completion, many of which are attributed to the tight $25 million budget of the original construction.

The recommendation of the report was to renovate the structure, which would take two years and require finding a temporary home for 1300 employees that currently work in the building. However, city commissioners have branded it a "white elephant" and are considering pulling down both this building and a neighbouring courthouse to make way for an all-new public services complex.

"My reaction is we should basically tear it down and build something new," long-standing commissioner Dan Saltzman told local newspaper The Oregonian, describing the building as "a nightmare for people who work there".

"There's got to be a better option than putting another $100 million into a white elephant," added Nick Fish, who oversees the city's water and environmental services bureaus.

Responding to the news, architect Michael Graves described the Portland Building as "a seminal project", as recognised by its addition to the USA's National Register of Historic Places in 2011. "Of course my preference would be to repair the existing structure," he said.

Michael Graves' Portland Building faces threat of demolition

Architectural historian Charles Jencks underlined the importance of the building in his influential book The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, where the author wrote: "The Portland still is the first major monument of Post-Modernism, just as the Bauhaus was of Modernism, because with all its faults it still is the first to show that one can build with art, ornament, and symbolism on a grand scale, and in a language the inhabitants understand."

The news emerges in the same month that the Williams and Tsien-designed former American Folk Art Museum in New York is lined up for demolition to allow an extension to the neighbouring Museum of Modern Art, just 13 years after the building's completion.