The Portland Phoenix

Another Viewpoint: Portland Museum expansion could use more critique

A mockup of the proposed expansion as seen from Free Street submitted by LEVER Architecture with Unknown Studio, Chris Newell - Akomawt Educational Initiative, Openbox, Once-Future Office, Atelier Ten and Studio Pacifica (Courtesy of Portland Museum of Art, Maine / LEVER Architecture / Dovetail Design Strategies)

A serious architectural critique is only possible with a built and experienced structure. Yet, Edgar Allen Beem’s review of the LEVER design proposal should have questioned and analyzed [the issue] more fully. The PMA site is not a Tabula Rasa. In total, the design is not to scale with the existing Payson and other museum buildings. It dominates all within the site, without meaningful dialogue. Is that “elegant”? Will all the wood be harvested in Maine, or grown, milled and fabricated elsewhere? What is the energy consumption with all the (especially south-west facing) glass and is that conducive for displaying art?

The PMA and Beem offer much ‘talk-a-tecture’ concerning diversity programming. However, there are no or few comments on appropriateness to the local context or the relationship of interior spaces for displaying art. 

Like others, I posit that a greater design talent is required to conceive an architecture both aesthetically unique while looking uniquely well placed within a unique context. At this point, I do not envision the LEVER design doing either. 

Beem’s review should have voiced the many questions that the LEVER design should be asked, and answered, before committing to it.  

Robert Kahn


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