The Portland Museum of Art International Design Competition jury has selected LEVER Architecture of Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles from the four finalists to design its new 60,000-square-foot addition.
LEVER (pronounced “lever, “not “leever”) is noted for mass timber design and the new PMA wing will be among the first commercial mass timber buildings in Maine. Bowdoin College’s new Arctic museum is thought to be the first.
In some ways, the LEVER design is the most conservative and deferential of the four finalists, taking the form of an elegant wooden structure with a sweeping arched roof about the same height and scale as the Payson Building. The curved roofline is a bow to Maine’s Wabanaki heritage and the mass timber construction speaks to Maine’s logging, pulp and paper history.
LEVER’s wood-and-glass structure is modest and naturalistic compared to the eccentric stack cubes, glass greenhouse-like structure and rammed earth buildings proposed by the other three finalists.
“Any of the design teams can do the job,” PMA director Mark Bessire said Friday. “We ended up with LEVER because our decision model was really falling back on the values of the organization, because they were the best aligned, being incredibly visionary and incredibly practical. They had a commitment to sustainability and they brought to the table such a diverse design team.”
The museum collected more than 2,000 public comments and “half of them were about LEVER,” Bessire said.
LEVER Architecture is known for mass timber design, having designed the first wooden highrise in the U.S., the 12-story Framework Building in Portland, Oregon. Mass timber uses glued, nailed and doweled wood to create structural panels.
The new PMA wing is expected to open in 2026.