Forty years ago, the Portland Building, designed by Michael Graves, considered the first postmodern building is opened in Portland Oregon. Het Portland Public Service Building (of kortweg Portland Building genoemd) werd geopend is een icoon voor de postmoderne architectuur omdat het ontwerp inging tegen alle principes van het Nieuwe Bouwen. Het gebouw dient als kantoorgebouw voor het gemeentebestuur van de Amerikaanse stad Portland.

The design, which displays numerous symbolic elements on its monumental facades, stands in purposeful contrast to the functional Modernist architecture that was dominant at the time. As Graves explains of his architecture: it’s “a symbolic gesture, an attempt to re-establish a language of architecture and values that are not a part of modernist homogeneity.”
In 1979 the City of Portland sponsored a competition for the design of the Portland Service Building, located on a 40,000 square-foot block in downtown Portland. The project, aimed to hold the city’s municipal offices, was uniquely located adjacent to City Hall, the County Courthouse and the Chapman Square Park.
The young Michael Graves submitted his ambitious design, despite his lack of experience, partially due to an ally he had in the jury—his friend Philip Johnson. Graves’ colorful low-cost design impressed the jury, who discarded his competitors’ costly glass and concrete designs, and awarded Graves the commission, knowing the design was bound to put Portland on the map—which it did.
The building attempts to create a continuum between past and present: it’s a symmetrical block with four off-white, stucco-covered rectangular facades featuring reinterpreted Classical elements, such as over-scaled keystones, pilasters and belvederes. The building is set on a two-story base, reminiscent of a Greek pedestal, which divides it into the Classical three-part partition of base-body-top. Furthermore, Graves added symbolism through color—green for the ground, blue for the sky, etc—in order to visually tie the building to its environment and location.
Despite its faults, The Portland building marked an undoubted departure from the monotony of Modernism. As Graves playfully explained: “I thought, ‘Why are they so upset?’ Modernism has given them a choice between vertical and horizontal, white, gray or black. Come on.”
The Portland building is considered a major key-point in architecture history, bringing Postmodernism out of the academy and into the public realm. It paved the way for later, more mature Postmodernist buildings, such as the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort (1990), Denver Central Library (1996) and the St. Coletta School (2006). Aldus
Ikzelf versta hier allemaal niks van. Wie echter wil weten wat ik van het postmodernisme in zijn geheel vind, die kan ik naar hier verwijzen.

Ronny De Schepper

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