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Friday 01.18.08

« See, Touch | Main | Working History at Cooley »

Hadid gets a university museum... so where is Portland's university museum?

Hadid's winning entry for the Broad Art Museum

I'm certain a lot of you already know Zaha Hadid has won the commission for Eli Broad's art museum at his alma mater, Michigan State University. It's a gutsy choice and I like its italicized character a lot more than her Cincinnati CAC project or any of the other contestants like Coop Himmelb(l)au and Morphosis etc. Still it seems pretty tame for Hadid, despite the fact it uses lots of triangular forms (a personal obsession). She also recently completed this interesting transit project the Hungerburgbahn (don't you just love German).

It also brings up the issue of university art museum's and Portland is really underdeveloped in that department. Seattle has the Henry, the University of Wisconsin Madison has the Chazen (nee Elvejehm), Berkeley Art Museum, Eccles (Logan Utah), Jordan Schnitzer Museum in Eugene, Hallie Ford Museum in Salem etc.

Sure, Portland has university galleries like the Cooley (Reed), The Art Gym (Marylhurst) and Hoffman (L&C), Autzen (PSU), PNCA's Feldman, Archer Gallery (Clark College) or Linfield College but no place for students to visit their own museum?

Will that change? The two Universities most capable of this are Reed and PSU (a brand new PORT sponsor, welcome).

Reed already has the beginnings of an interesting art collection with David Smith, Carl and Hilda Morris etc., alumni like Peter Norton and the endowment to pull it off. Sure they have a great exhibition program with the Cooley Gallery but is there the political will to do it? At some point Reed should look into it because they will lose Stephanie Snyder if they don't give her a bigger project to sink her teeth into. Who they should consider as architects; Stephen Holl, Brad Cloepfil, Jeff Kovel, David Chipperfield etc.

Portland State University being on the South Park blocks by PAM and in need of a public outreach zone would benefit even more than Reed would if they undertook a museum and it would finally cement their visual art's program's position in the school's hierarchy. Only just recently did they hire a curator (PORT's own Jenene Nagy) but PSU needs more than baby steps. Basically they need to grow a pair and call Jordan Schnitzer... with PNCA growing PSU needs to step up in its role in the city and a museum has farther reaching implications than just art. Here are some architects they should consider: Brad Cloepfil, Rick Potestio, Zaha Hadid, SHoP, David Chipperfield, Ando.. etc. PSU needs a catalytic jump start and this would do that while reintegrating the campus with Portland. Its a downtown campus, time to act like it.

So why not PNCA... well first things first, they are starved for room, don't own any buildings yet ect. (yes they are working on it), if only Portland's other Universities were so dynamic?

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 18, 2008 at 10:56 | Comments (2)


This is a compelling challenge to the "academic" community. I know that back in the 80's there was an effort by Mel Katz, Mike Russo and others to create an art center in the old Sears building in NE (now metro headquarters). This was as I understand it based a little on the PCVA model (a Portland precursor to PICA for those who were not here at the time.) Obviously it didn't happen. Why? I know many of the people you suggest be approached for sponsorship of a project like this were approached then.

I think it would be fantastic for PSU to pursue this idea, I also think it would be worth while for PSU, Reed, Marylhurst, CCAC, and all parties that would benefit from a truly contemporary art space to collaborate and work together to make this happen. I am sure there are all sort of politics I am unaware of, but really, every institution mentioned above would benefit in terms of association/exhibition space, and more importantly, the social, and educational benefits to students and public alike.

There is a real lack in Portland of a place that everyone can (and will) access "temporally and spatially" on a regular basis that challenges us and inspires us to understand, and or learn the possibility's for engagement presented by "art".

Posted by: sanone [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 19, 2008 03:59 PM

I think it is an important issue. Only Reed or PSU is in a position to undertake the task and it would be a major civic profile booster for either entity. It would also really enhance campus life.

I don't think its possible for a coalition project between all of the Univeristies... for a museum project it just wouldn't hold. Museums inherently enhance the specific campus where they are located in terms of prestige and public profile. Reed has the track record, a collection, serious collecting alumni and the deep pockets to undertake it but PSU almost needs it more. That doesn't mean it will happen, just that PSU needs to stop being the #3 State University in Oregon and a cultural centerpiece would do more to counteract that perception than practically anything else. Sure sports are fine but PSU is on the Park blocks... the brass at the top of PSU havn't made visual arts the top priority it needs to be (especially considering local employers like Nike, Adidas and Laika who need top notch talent.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 20, 2008 02:29 PM

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