i+D - July/August 2018 - 47

Redesigning History - By Brian Libby

Old-New Hybrids
Sometimes a building doesn't just invite, but almost commands change.
The Portland Building in Portland, Oregon, for example, is National Registerlisted for its place in history as the first major building in America designed
in a postmodern style. But, while the exterior façade (now being entirely
re-clad) offered a playful blend of color and historical references, the interior
of this city office building was dark and mostly just a simple drywalled
space. The architects, Portland and Seattle-based DLR Group, answered
their clients' call for a more contemporary office setting by not only making
shaded façade glass clear to add light, but also removing the old high-walled
cubicles in favor of flexible sit-to-stand workstations divided only by small,
colorful fabric screens. "We wanted the inside to have the same excitement
as the exterior," explains DLR Group Senior Associate Carla Weinheimer.
The designers also took inspiration from the original concrete structure
itself, never before exposed but now part of the interior. "I've been enjoying
the dialogue between the preciousness outside and the muscular actual
structure inside the building," says Weinheimer. "We felt we needed
to expose that because the floor-to-floor ratio is fairly low. But, it was an
opportunity to put a new spin on what was always there."
Of course, there is no one specific formula for how to restore a historic
building. The key, designers and architects say, is to listen to what the building
needs and where the opportunities lie. "We always want it to be clear what
is old and what is new, but the real goal is matter of continuity," says ABCP's
Gagné, now that the Monastère des Augustines has been given new life.
"We have to be humble and recognize the building's qualities. But, within
those parameters, you can create entirely new spaces."

BRIAN LIBBY
is a journalist, photographer, and
award-winning filmmaker. His articles
have appeared in The New York Times,
The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic,
and Architectural Digest.

Next-Gen
Preservation
If historic preservation is an evolving set of best practices,
perhaps that's best reflected by an evolving way of
teaching preservation: combining conservation with design
entrepreneurship.
Take the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in
Georgia, which has created the nation's first preservation
design degree program. "We found that our graduates, though
successful and well-equipped, were having difficulty finding
sustained employment that would pay a living wage," explains
Ivan Chow, dean of the college's School of Building Arts.
"They could secure jobs with public historic preservation
programs and private museums. But, those jobs are limited in
number. So, we began discussing broadening our program to
equip students with a more expanded skill set. Our traditional
historic curriculum would train them how to conserve, but
not to design. We've introduced a component in design, and
we have courses that teach fundamentals of entrepreneurship
to encourage them to take control of properties instead of
waiting for a developer or a bank: to form companies focused
on historic preservation. This is something that's been missing."
Similarly, the Université de Montréal offers one of the few
master's programs in North America entirely dedicated
to conservation, where the focus is on balancing traditional
preservation methodology with creative solutions. "I think
intuition is a very strong element in the practice of design,
but when it comes to a building with heritage value, intuition
should be enhanced with methodology," explains Claudine
Déom, who heads the master's program in Conservation
of the Built Environment. "It's not a recipe, but it provides
the opportunity to deepen the understanding and, therefore, to
perhaps intervene with the existing, instead of viewing it as a
hindrance." The university has introduced a new design studio
to make sure theoretical knowledge can be put into practice.
"That's an important aspect of our work," she says. "While
some programs are more involved in heritage studies, we try to
get students in the workforce who can work in interdisciplinary
teams of professionals and bring their views to the table."

To add light inside
the Portland Building,
an award-winning
postmodern structure,
the architects replaced
exterior glass and
interior cubicle walls.
(Image: DLR Group)

i+D - July/August 2018

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i+D - July/August 2018

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