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    Reevaluating Postmodernism

    by Brian Libby

    Twenty years ago the Portland (Oregon) Public Services Building by Michael Graves marked the coming of age of postmodern architecture. Arriving after noteworthy houses by Robert A.M. Stern, Robert Venturi, and others, the Portland Building was perhaps the movement's first major public building and the first to garner recognition beyond the sometimes insular world of the architecture profession.

    Time and Newsweek both featured the Portland Building on their covers. New York critic Paul Goldberger hailed it as the most significant American building of the decade. Portland mayor Frank Ivancie declared it "our Eiffel Tower."

    Unfortunately for Michael Graves, the building has, despite its icon status, been largely panned in the two decades since it was completed not just by the critics of postmodernism but also by ordinary Portlanders.

    Gloomy, cramped office spaces have made it unpopular with tenants. Government employees there call in sick more often than those working in other buildings. Cracks have appeared in upper floors, requiring new bracing.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    The Portland Building by Michael Graves.
    Photo: Meredith L. Clausen/ Cities/Buildings Database

    ArchWeek Image

    The Portland Building was said to be the first major public building of the postmodern movement.
    Great Buildings Photo Donald Corner and Jenny Young

     

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