I am not any kind of designer, but my mom is a graphic designer. I have been influenced and nurtured by her from the start. I can appreciate design and I think I can also look at art and design and effectively explain to others how I feel about it.
I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and remember vaguely when The Portland Building was built. I was a medium-sized child when it was built and I wasn’t aware until recently that back in 1980 there was a competition to win its design, or even that Michael Graves was the one who designed it. I knew that name—Michael Graves, architect—but I didn’t know that Portland was so connected to him. Back then I remember hearing how people did not like the building, that it was ugly. It was too much, too different. Whatever your opinion, it has become a landmark for our city.
The Portland Building is controversial to say the least. There have been problems and complaints about the functionality and wear-and-tear over the years. The city of Portland is in the midst of a possible $95 million decision: tear it down or upgrade and repair the building; also whether or not it is worth the expense to the city to make those repairs on a building that some consider too flawed to provide comfort and function to the people who work there. Graves is not shy about proclaiming that his design is not the source of the problems.
So, my opinion is that we cannot tear this building down. After seeing Graves’s body of architectural work I see that the Portland Building was the first major building design of his career and that through the years Graves’s designs after 1980 progressed and changed. We need to preserve all of those examples to see how architectural thought progresses and changes throughout a body of work.
It really is art, it really is very different, and it is a bold example of an artist doing something new. We have an obligation to protect this important architectural example.