Portland Public Service Building National Register Nomination

Portland, Oregon
Listed 2011
Size: 360,00 square feet

Peter Meijer Architect, PC (PMA) nominated the iconic Portland Public Services building to the National Register of Historic Places. Known universally as the Portland Building, it is one of the most notable works by internationally-known master architect Michael Graves and is widely credited as the design that established Graves’s preeminence in the field.

The Portland Building is significant as one of a handful of high-profile building designs that defined the aesthetic of Post-Modern Classicism in the United States between the mid-1960s and the 1980s. Constructed in 1982, the structure is ground-breaking for its rejection of “universal” Modernist principles in favor of the bold and symbolic color, well-defined volumes, and stylized- and reinterpreted-classical elements such as pilasters, garlands, and keystones.

The building is notable for its regular geometry and fenestration as well as the architect’s use of over-scaled and highly-stylized classical decorative features on the building including a copper statue mounted above the entry, garlands on the north and south facades, and the giant pilasters and keystone elements on the east and west facades. Whether or not one judges the building to be beautiful or even to have fulfilled Graves’s ideas about being humanist in nature, it is undeniably important in the history of American architecture. The building is inextricably linked to the rise of the Post-Modern movement.