Portland State University announced it is anchoring the $70 million renovation of its main classroom building Neuberger Hall, with a 7,500 square-foot art museum.
It will be funded in part by a $5 million gift from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation and $5 million from Portland State's Foundation. The bulk of the project will be paid for by the taxpayer via a bond measure.
At a press conference Thursday morning at the Campus Rec Building, stakeholders praised Schnitzer's generosity and talked up the idea of a Cultural District. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will be just up the road from two other beneficiaries of Schnitzer money, the remodeled performance center Lincoln Hall and the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and attendant theaters.
The museum will not replace the Littman Gallery, which is used for student work. A press release stated it will feature "art by Northwest artists, faculty and students as well as exhibitions by national and international artists."
Sixty-year-old Neuberger Hall will be renovated "to become a dynamic hub for interdisciplinary learning, community connections and cultural outreach."
Following in the footsteps of his mother Arlene, Jordan Schnizer has amassed a large private art collection, including thousands of prints, many of which were the basis of the Andy Warhol show at the Portland Art Museum in 2016.
"We are proud to partner with the Schnitzer family on a visionary university museum that will bring remarkable access to the visual arts and arts education PSU faculty and students as well as to all of Portland," said PSU President Wim Wiewel, who will retire and be replaced in August by Rahmat Shouresh. "Both this museum and a renovated Neuberger Hall will stand at the very heart of our campus and the center of our community."
Neuberger Hall is mostly made up of classrooms, and is very uninviting from the street. The Park Avenue (west ) side also has no entrance, presenting metal siding to the park blocks. It was built in 1962.
On the Broadway (east) side it resents a series of concrete panels to the street, and a dark entrance up a flight of stairs. It was added eight years later in the Brutalist style: lots of concrete with small windows.
David Keltner, Design Principal at Hacker Architects, talked to the Business Tribune about how they are approaching the remodel. A big part of the job is to bring daylight into the Brutalist concrete west side of the building. As you walk along Broadway all you see are pre-cast concrete panels and one stairwell.
"It's a bad urban design idea to separate the floor level from the sidewalk," he said. "It's not inviting, you can't see in."
Punch it out
The panels are not essential. "They're not structural. We can punch them out and replace them with big windows looking into the gallery. It's actually a steel frame building, with concrete poured around the steel for insulation."
He adds that a classroom building is not the easiest thing to activate the street, but an art gallery is.
Another plan is to lower the floor to street level, which is four feet below it. That forms an atrium, which is more inviting from the street. Then some stairs inside go up to the lobby to get back to the first floor level.
"We really want to connect Broadway to Park Avenue though the building, so you can see all the way through it."
The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will be open to the public, not just university staff and students. Keltner says the college is used to dealing with being very accessible.
Art for all
"The idea is to make art accessible. The Schnitzer Foundation is very forward looking about getting art into the lives of people who wouldn't normally run across it." He is designing the galleries to include more interactive events, such as speaking engagements, and not be just a static museum.
"Neuberger Hall is the center of student life on campus, almost every student comes through there. And that suits the mission of the art museum to expose people to art who might not otherwise encounter it."
The project is south and west of PSU's other big capital project, the new Business School. Hacker is about two thirds of the way though the design. The total project cost is $70 million. Construction costs are $48 million. Soft costs account for the rest, from financing fees, permits and consultants' fees (there are around 60 on the job) to furniture, fixtures and fittings.
Hacker's Senior Project Manager on Neuberger Hall is Nick Hodges.
"We looked at how people move about the PSU campus, and in general there are strong north south connections but not east west," says Hodges. "PSU has a master plan, they are going about it."
"I believe that students on every university campus should make going to an art museum part of their campus life," said Jordan Schnitzer, whose renowned collection of contemporary prints includes today's most celebrated artists. "Art museums are not just for the elite few. They are for every member of our community."
"We are proud to partner with Jordan Schnitzer on a visionary university museum that will bring remarkable access to the visual arts and arts education to PSU and Portland," said PSU President Wim Wiewel. "Both this museum and a renovated Neuberger Hall will stand at the very heart of our campus and community."
To bring daylight into the building they will cut into the roof and create a light shaft down the middle of the block. There will be a new skylight 30 by 80 feet long and a courtyard two floors down from the roof.
"Many public buildings in the 1960s and 1970s were in the Butalist style. The upside was they were built to last out of really substantial materials. The downside is they were built to last!"
Usually the requirement for new mechanical systems and accessibility means the buildings need renovation which can be hard to do in such forbidding concrete structures. Tastes have changed on 60 years. Students expect a college to be more like an elementary school than a prison.
Site specific work
"They represent a huge amount of embodied energy," so they are hard to just tear down. "It's going to be a major part of our architectural profession how we respond to these buildings," says Keltner. The Neuberger Hall renovation is aiming for LEED Gold certification.
He adds that all of Hacker's work is about how a building can relate most strongly to its site.
"This is about making the Broadway side a better city building, and connecting it to the urban fabric. The park side is about creating a building that is integrated into the park" Part of which will be the reflections of the tree canopy on the windows of the new exterior wall.
The renovation should be complete by the end of 2019.
Highlights of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art include:
• The building will be located at the heart of the PSU campus on the block bound by SW Broadway, Hall, Park and Harrison, with easy access to public transportation and city's highest volume traffic corridors.
• The project is being designed by Hacker Architects and will be built by Fortis Construction. Hacker Architects designed the Yellowstone Art Museum, the High Desert museum, the Portland Children's Art Museum and the renovation of the Portland Art Museum.
• The museum will be outfitted to maximize exhibition space with technology for climate control to accommodate multi-sensory and multi-media collections. It will be created with universal accessibility to encourage social diversity and to enhance visitor experience.