Four finalist concept designs were just unveiled by the Portland Museum of Art for a planned expansion of the institution set to be completed by 2026 in the thriving New England cultural capital.
The $100 million project will add a total of 60,000 square feet of space to the existing museum in the form of a new six- or seven-story structure meant to accommodate the PMA’s collections, which have recently grown.
"Right now, because of our growth, the real risk is not to build," Director Mark Bessire explained. "If museums don’t continue to grow, if you fall back, it can take a generation to recover."
The project concludes the overhaul of Portland’s Congress Square district and will include restorations of some of its existing buildings, three of which are more than 100 years old, funded by a capital project that has already raised more than $30 million. Former USC School of Architecture Dean Milton Curry and White Arkitekter Partner Monica von Schmalensee were among the 13 jurors who selected designs back in August based on their "creative and sensitive approach, distinctive vision, and embodiment of the PMA’s values of courage, equity, service, sustainability, and trust."
The four finalist concepts will remain on view at the PMA until December 11th.
Adjaye Associates with Simons Architects, KMA, Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture, Atelier Ten, 2x4, and John Bear Mitchell
Description from the architects: "The Portland Museum of Art Expansion is conceived as an armature of belonging that weaves community programming, public space, and art into a robust cultural destination. Guided by indigenous knowledge systems applied with 21st-century technology, the building’s primary materials are borne from the land—recycled Maine rammed earth will articulate the extension’s envelope and exposed structural timber beams will act as both interior structure and finish. Both materials celebrate lifecycles within the regional landscape, their expression returning the architecture to the heritage and ecology of the museum’s place whilst reducing the overall carbon footprint.
An ode to the Penobscot tribe’s term for entryway, The Casco Entry and its adjoining Shaw Sculpture Garden provides a transparent counterpoint to the opaque façade of the existing building. This new main entry on High Street reinvigorates the Shaw Sculpture Garden, drawing in passers-by as it weaves the cityscape and gardens into the fabric of the museum.
Coding principles of adaptability into the structure’s DNA, the entirety of the space is conceived to function as a flexible frame, allowing for reconfiguration and dissolving the distinction between the museum’s programs into an accessible communal experience. Acting as a wayfinding guide and invitation to explore, the expansion is anchored by a central stair that extends the public realm from The Casco Entry up to the rooftop. As such, the expansion culminates with a public amenity in the sky, featuring a rooftop garden, sculpture park and unparalleled views of Casco Bay and the city skyline."
MVRDV with Simons Architects, STOSS, Institute for Human Centered Design, Pentagram, Atelier Ten, and DVDL
Descriptions from the architects: "Our team’s concept for The Portland Museum of Art’s Campus Unification and Expansion will turn the museum inside out. We open the museum to the city by inviting the public into the campus and enabling access from all sides. The campus becomes part of the streetscape, the city, and the community. We create a new heart for the campus, a gathering place that solidifies the connection between the current museum and the new wing, between art and people.
With only a light touch, the PMA’s new wing is stitched into the campus with respect for the existing buildings. It becomes a collection of community and museum programs stacked vertically, each floor with a distinctive use, atmosphere, and appearance. Publically activated spill out spaces weave around and overlap with these new programs. They are connected vertically with a public route that juxtaposes adjacencies and cultivates synergies. These interstitial areas give the people of Portland a space for creativity, for display, for gathering, and for all manner of public expression. The new wing promotes exchange between the creative program and the community.
As a beacon of the new era for the PMA, the new wing will stand tall in the city. Exposed to all, it will seek attention and invite the city in, to experience, to explore, and to make it a part of their world. Art for all, unpretentious, messy, transparent, expressive, and a continuous work in progress."
LEVER Architecture with Scott Simons and Unknown Studio, Chris-Newell-Akomawt Educational Initiative, Openbox, Once-Future Office, Atelier Ten, and Studio Pacifica
Description from the architects: "For 12,000 years the Wabanaki have welcomed the dawn as a connection to people and place. Our proposal pays homage to Wabanaki worldviews by embracing the light—connecting the PMA with a new urban architectural experience where all people belong. During the summer solstice, the expansion’s curved roof cradles the rising sun; in winter, the sun illuminates the central indoor public space. Generous and airy, the architecture is an expression of the natural world made from regional timber, terracotta, and granite.
Everything is interconnected. To unify the campus, our design removes barriers—replacing the administrative wing with a free ground floor public space traversing the site. This “Free Street” and the adjoining landscapes form the connective tissue that unites eclectic buildings and programs. The reimagined sculpture court becomes a light-filled, accessible plaza and celebratory entry to a new flexible performance space.
The Free Street brings the energy of the city into the museum, greeting visitors with unexpected spaces—a community lounge, maker spaces, and performance hall—where people can get their hands dirty and make noise. This daylit street rises up to the rooftop terrace, revealing layers of art and activity.
The PMA’s “multi-vocal” approach to curation is emboldened with spaces that put making, performance, and exhibition in dialogue without prioritizing one over the other. People engage art in multiple ways and on their own terms.
The new PMA campus is a place where all the arts and all the people belong together."
Toshiko Mori Architect + Johnston Marklee + Preston Scott Cohen with Simons Architects, Cross Cultural Community Services, Arup, Buro Happold, Hargreaves Jones, and WeShouldDoItAll
Description from the architects: "Our proposal fulfills the PMA’s Art for All mission through generous community spaces interwoven with 21st century galleries in a campus setting. Our design combines the urban scale of downtown in generous galleries with intimate settings at the visitor scale in new harbor spaces and a living room for local communities. The diaphanous building evokes Maine’s historic marine industry buildings as well as the artist studio typology while remaining flexible, adaptive, and future-forward.
The unique quality of Maine’s natural light is a source of inspiration for Maine’s artists. Our scheme invites visitors to experience this light in an authentic way. The sawtooth skylights and glazed facades filter light into the interior galleries and community spaces, while the porous atrium informally flows between the north and south entries, the new building, Payson, McLellan and Clapp House.
Artist Jeremy Frey guided our campus identity incorporating Wabanaki basket weave patterns into our facade. Birch thickets in the sculpture garden reflect the site’s indigenous history. We have integrated the original portico of 142 Free Street into our facade to honor its historic relationship with the Payson building and surrounding fabric. Our phased unification approach enhances the visitors’ experience of the campus while allowing for incremental adjustments.
Future visitors to the Portland Museum of Art will discover a new contemporary museum, experience connection to the historic center of Portland, and embody the integration of collections, community, and campus. Our vision for the Portland Museum of Art embodies a museum as a catalyst for change."
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