OCAC's new painting, drawing and photography building
Though it's over a hundred years old the Oregon College of Arts and Craft
has been one of Portland's best kept secrets. So in a bid to reinvent the college they have boldly undertaken a 15 year, 3 part master plan by BOORA, and kicked it off with what looks like a fantastic new building designed by Massachusetts based architect Charles Rose
+ local/international firm Colab
with landscaping by Murase Associates
. It's a new center for painting, drawing photography... with studios. Also, much more than simply a cool building; it asks the school and Portland in general to live up to even higher ideals of art, design and ecology. Great architecture and design challenges us and Portland as an innovative, high quality human scaled city deserves to be challenged. (For example why can't the Columbia River Crossing
with a 4 billion dollar budget do the same?)
Model of the new master plan with new buildings in light wood color, gray = existing structures
Though the early drawings
didn't excite me... after two tours it's now looking like the most exciting new piece of architecture in Portland since the aerial tram
. It has what it takes to do a truly superb architecture; a great site, client and an ambitious international designer who's design thoroughly carries outs its concept from the sidewalks to the roof and the elevator shaft.
in a green move the interior spaces maximize natural light
Oddly, it is rare in Portland to pick architects from outside the region but Rose is a perfect choice with his eco-focus approach and track record of excellent arts campuses and residential projects for famous musicians like Joshua Bell and Lenny Kravitz. Basically, he specializes in designing creativity conducive environments. Also, who expected a very inside-Portland institution like OCAC to pick an outsider?
rainwater is funneled by the many triangular roof shapes into just 2 collectors, which empty into bioswales for treatment (LEED Silver rating). Thus, the cool looking roof is actually a functional expression of ecological goals. Excellent...
So far the details are exceptional... even the sidewalks
OCAC successfully raised 14 million dollars to undertake the project (inconveniently at the height of the great recession). Sometimes thinking big is the more prudent course. Art schools are numerous and very competitive and if OCAC can upgrade their buildings and unique site this way one would think it will push them to grow in many other unforeseen ways. What was foreseen was the increased importance of digital photography which gets a lot of state of the art space in this new building.
painting and drawing will benefit from strategic use of natural light.
Studio spaces from the outside.
Studios from the inside. Frank Gehry famously preferred unfinished buildings to finished ones (probably due to a perceived potential), though in this case I think this project might just compete once it is fully functional as its essentially a stage for realizing artistic potential.