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Rose festival indeed: a sneak peak at OCAC's expansion


Jeff Jahn at PORT has made two tours of the Oregon College of Art & Craft's under-construction Drawing/Painting and Photography studio building. And the loquacious art critic/curator/artist likes what he sees.

"Though the early drawings didn't excite me," Jahn writes, "after two tours it's now looking like the most exciting new piece of architecture in Portland since the aerial tram. It has what it takes to do a truly superb architecture; a great site, client and an ambitious international designer who's design thoroughly caries outs its concept from the sidewalks to the roof and the elevator shaft."

Designed by Massachusetts-based Charles Rose Architects with an assist from Portland's COLAB Architecture + Urban Design, the two-story, 15,000 square foot DPP is expected to meet LEED Silver specifications. It includes facilities for drawing and painting upstairs in the spaces with most of the natural light, while the lower floor adds studio space for darkrooms, photography studios, a digital photo lab, and expandable classroom spaces.

The buildings are also distinctive for their triangular roof forms, which are a functional effort to divert rainwater into just two collectors, which empty into bioswales for wastewater treatment. The triangular and sloping roof forms recall other Rose projects like the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida or the Currier Center for the Performing Arts in Putney, Vermont.

"Much more than simply a cool building, it asks the school and Portland in general to live up to even higher ideals of art, design and ecology," Jahn says of Rose's OCAC project. "Great architecture and design challenges us, and Portland as an innovative, high quality human-scaled city deserves to be challenged."

The DPP (which the school managed to raise the funds for amidst the worst of the Great Recession) will also be linked to existing and future buildings by a central spine of stairways and ramps around a series of lush courtyards designed in collaboration with the venerable landscape architecture firm Murase Associates. BOORA Architects of Portland created the 15-year, three-part master plan.

As Jahn notes, it is rare in Portland for clients - be they private developers or public institutions - to pick architects from outside of Portland. When they have, at least with the famous "starchitect" names, it has ended badly. Richard Meier was originally set to design the Casey Eye Institute at OHSU. Frank Gehry was to design a senior housing project in old town. Cesar Pelli was supposed to design the Liberty Center office tower in the Lloyd District. They all fell through. "Rose is a perfect choice with his eco-focus approach and track record of excellent arts campuses," Jahn argues. "Basically, he specializes in designing creativity conducive environments. "

I haven't yet visited OCAC to see the Rose-design project; I was waiting for the work to be completed before Jeff scooped me. But looking at his photos, it seems that Rose and his firm did a deft job of honoring the original architecture, designed by the great Oregon architect John Storrs (also responsible for the World Forestry Center and Salishan resort), while also being very much of its time and tied to Rose's portfolio.

Photos by Jeff Jahn

Published with permission of Portland Architecture

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